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Blisters develop around the nose sometimes, especially when one has a cold or a runny nose. Frequent nose blowing and touching the nose can cause trauma to the skin and increase the likelihood of bacteria entering the skin. This develops into itchy sores that begin as small red spots, which transform into blisters that later break open. These sores and blisters ooze and develop crusts that look like they are coated with brown sugar. This common skin infection is called impetigo.

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that is more common in children than in adults. It is caused by a staph (staphylococcal) or strep (streptococcal) infection. The bacteria may enter any part of the body when the skin is injured or irritated. Picking, scratching and rubbing the skin can cause a break in the skin. People may also get impetigo around the nose after a cold or allergy that caused the skin around the nose to become raw. However, impetigo can also develop in healthy skin.

The rash may form into small or large blisters with sharp borders. They may be itchy, red, and mildly painful. This condition is contagious and it can spread by direct contact or by sharing towels, clothing, and other items which have been used by someone who has the infection (indirect contact). People who have eczema are more likely to develop impetigo. This condition may also be a recurrent condition, since staph and strep organisms are normal residents of the skin.

When to Call a Doctor

Impetigo is rarely an emergency, but you should seek medical help if you notice your rashes are developing into weeping blisters, which is a sign of infection. The doctor may recommend an over-the-counter topical antibiotic to treat the infection and to prevent contaminating other people.


It is important to wash the sores with soap and water before applying medications. Crusty sores may be soaked in warm water for a few minutes and scrubbed, removed and patted dry. Apply topical antibiotic cream or ointment such as mupirocin (Bactroban) on the sores. In serious cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic pills such as cephalosporins for oral intake. Sores usually begin to get better within three days of treatment, and may completely heal after one weak. Call your doctor if the infection does not improve after three or four days or if the infection seems to be getting worse - watch out for fever, increased swelling, pain, warmth, redness, and pus.

Avoid scratching the blisters to prevent spreading the infection to others. If possible, cover the wounds with bandage. Use your own towels, pillow cases, bed sheets, clothes, etc. Wash your hands frequently.

If your child, or anyone you know has impetigo, avoid close contact with them. Avoid sharing towels and other items that may be contaminated with bacteria. Teach them to wash their hands frequently and to avoid scratching their blisters.

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