How to Differentiate Between Impetigo and Cellulitis. Cellulitis and impetigo are both bacterial skin infections. It is important to distinguish between the two conditions to prescribe the appropriate treatment. Luckily, cellulitis and impetigo are usually identifiable by sight alone, though it is sometimes necessary to have a culture taken to identify a particular case correctly.

Look at the skin affected by bacteria. It is most likely cellulitis if the skin is warm and forms as a band or elongated area. It is probably impetigo, however, if you find the presence of individual small blisters containing a reddish brown fluid that dries to a honey-colored crust.

Notice the texture of the afflicted area. Cellulitis is generally flat, with the possibility of a slight raising of the skin, while impetigo is bumpy and uneven. Both conditions have the appearance of reddened skin, so this factor cannot be used to differentiate between the two.

Differentiate based on the presence of certain factors. Cellulitis is often associated with fever and chills while impetigo rarely, if ever, presents in this manner.

Check your glands for swelling. Many times you will have swollen glands or lymph nodes when suffering from cellulitis. Impetigo is not generally associated with these swollen areas.

Consider the age of the person with the skin affliction. Cellulitis is more common in adults, while impetigo is more likely to be present in children. It is important, however, to remember that both of these conditions can occur at any stage of life.

Review the medical history of the person with the skin infection. While impetigo generally does not have any particular history associated with it, cellulitis often develops in those who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lymphedema and conditions which affect the immune system, such as HIV.

Study contagion factors. Impetigo is highly contagious and likely to be found in multiple cases within households and places such as day care centers. Cellulitis, on the other hand, generally appears singularly except for very cramped environments in which the same hygienic facilities are used, such as military bases.

Identify the skin infections based in part on the symptoms the sufferer experiences. Itching is a telling symptom in the case of impetigo, while tenderness and pain is more common with cellulitis. These symptoms are particularly noticeable prior to the beginning of medicinal treatment.


Always have a physician diagnose and treat your skin infections, even when you believe you know what condition you have. Never use antibiotics or other medicines prescribed to someone else, even those in your own family.