Impetigo Vs. Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference

Impetigo Vs. Cold Sores: How To Tell The Difference

If you've ever seen small, red blisters appear around your mouth, you might have assumed you had developed a case of cold sores. Also referred to as fever blisters, cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that appear around the lips and mouth. They are quite common, affecting as many as half of the U.S. population over the course of their lives. When you start to see those small red bumps, it can be tempting to assume you have cold sores and have contracted the herpes simplex virus, but that might not be the only explanation. Impetigo is a common skin condition that also creates red bumps, and therefore, is often mistaken for cold sores. In this article, we discuss the differences between impetigo and cold sores and also answer questions like what does impetigo look like and how do you get impetigo?

What Is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a highly-infectious skin condition that often affects young children between the ages of 2 and 10.  It usually appears as reddish sores on the face, especially around the nose and mouth and on the hands and feet. Over the course of a week or two, the sores begin to burst and create yellow marks on the skin.

There are two types of impetigo: non-bullous impetigo and bullous impetigo. They differ in their appearance and symptoms.

What Is Bullous Impetigo?

The symptoms of bullous impetigo begin with the appearance of fluid-filled blisters. These blisters usually appear on the waist, neck, arms, and legs and are about 1-2 cm in length.

The blisters may be painful and the area of skin surrounding them may be itchy. As is the case with any type of blister, it is important not to touch, itch, or scratch the skin.

What Is Non-Bullous Impetigo?

Non-bullous impetigo is characterized by the appearance of fluid-filled blisters around the face and neck. Unlike bullous impetigo, blisters do not usually appear across the torso and legs. The blisters may be painful and the area of skin surrounding them may be itchy and red. Symptoms of fever, vomiting, and swollen glands are more often associated with non-bullous impetigo.

Symptoms Of Impetigo

The primary symptom of impetigo is the appearance of red sores around the face, nose, mouth, hands, and feet. These sores rupture quickly, ooze for a few days, and then usually turn into scars. If left untreated, impetigo sores can spread to other parts of the body including the stomach, thighs, and feet.

In addition to sores and blisters, the most common symptoms of impetigo include the following:

  • Red sores
  • Golden crusted sores
  • Itching
  • Scabbing
  • Dry skin
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands

How Long Does Impetigo Last?

Without treatment, impetigo usually takes 2-3 weeks to fully heal. However, treatment is often the best course of action to take because it can reduce the healing process to less than a week.

How To Get Rid Of Impetigo In 24 Hours

The treatment time for impetigo can depend on a variety of factors, including a person's physical condition and their response to treatment. In certain cases, impetigo will subside in less than one day (24 hours). Antibiotic creams are often used in order to make the symptoms go away faster and stop the infection from spreading.

What Are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are small, fluid-filled blisters that appear around the lips. Studies estimate that more than half of the United States population has been infected with a virus that causes cold sores during their lifetime.

Cold sore blisters are often grouped together in small patches. After these blisters break, scabs form. Cold sores usually disappear in two or three weeks and rarely leave any permanent marks.

To learn more about cold sores and what causes them, check out our blog here.

Cold Sore Symptoms

Cold sores do not usually cause severe symptoms, but they can result in the appearance of a few minor symptoms, such as the following:

  • Blisters
  • Oozing and crusting
  • Tingling and itching

Risk Factors For Cold Sores

Once you have been infected with the herpes-simplex virus, there is always a chance that cold sores may reappear around the lips or mouth. However, the frequency of these outbreaks can be influenced by environmental factors, genetics, and other health conditions. The following are a few of the most common risk factors for cold sores:

  • Infection
  • Sun exposure
  • Severe burns
  • Menstruation
  • Eczema
  • Stress
  • Chemotherapy

Impetigo Vs Cold Sores

Here are the similarities between cold sores and impetigo:

  • Impetigo and cold sores both cause blisters
  • Impetigo and cold sores can both cause scaly, red skin
  • You should avoid touching your face if you have cold sores or impetigo
  • Impetigo and cold sores are both contagious

The main difference between cold sores and impetigo is the area in which the blisters appear. Cold sore blisters usually appear around the mouth, lips, and gums. Impetigo blisters can also appear in these areas, but they can also appear around the nose, hands, legs, and feet.

Impetigo Vs. Cold Sores: Summary

Impetigo and cold sores are both highly-infectious skin conditions that result in the appearance of red blisters around the mouth, lips, and surrounding areas.

Cold sore blisters usually appear around the lips, gums, and mouth. Impetigo blisters may also occur in these areas, although they can also spread to the legs, feet, and stomach.

Cold Sore Treatment

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Impetigo Vs Cold Sore

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