Can Stress Cause Impetigo in Adults?

Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection from certain staph or strep bacteria that spreads from direct contact with another person's infected area. Impetigo is more likely to affect children than adults, with 12.3% of children affected by the condition compared to 4.9% of adults.

Though stress cannot cause impetigo, it can make you more susceptible (likely) to getting the infection. However, research is unclear as to how much stress affects impetigo.

Learn about impetigo, how stress affects the condition, how to lower your risk of getting it, and more.

Patient scratching impetigo skin condition on arm.

tylim / Getty Images

Stress and Skin Health

Stress cannot cause impetigo, but it can increase your chances of getting an infection since stress weakens the immune system.

Stress can affect many body systems and the way they function and can lead to or increase the symptoms of many skin conditions, including:

In turn, having a skin condition, especially one that can be quite visible to others, can cause increased stress, perpetuating the cycle. This is why stress management can help with more than just stress; it can also help prevent and improve skin conditions and many other health concerns.


Click Play to Learn All About Impetigo

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD

Stress Management Techniques With Impetigo

You can practice many stress management techniques to lower stress levels, which can improve and prevent skin conditions such as impetigo.

Some ways of managing stress to improve skin health include:

Stress management tools that focus on the connection between the mind and the body, called mind-body therapies (MBTs), are especially helpful. These techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis, meditation, and more.

Impetigo Triggers in Adults

Impetigo is a bacterial infection that passes easily from one person to another, so it happens most often when people are in close contact, such as in dormitories or crowded gyms. It is also more likely to occur in warmer weather and when people have open wounds or cuts or other disruptions to the skin barrier, such as eczema. Additionally, people who have a weakened immune system or who have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, are at an increased risk.


You get impetigo by touching the infected skin of someone who has the condition. It can spread even if the infected person is asymptomatic (not showing any signs or symptoms). In fact, this is how it most commonly spreads because there are no warning signs to distance from other people. The condition can also spread by sharing clothes, towels, and other items that have touched the skin of the infected person.

Impetigo can go away without treatment, but any skin condition should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Many different medical conditions can cause itchy sores on the skin, and some may be more serious than impetigo. Additionally, impetigo does sometimes require treatment.

Lowering the Risk of Recurring Impetigo

Even though impetigo spreads easily and can return after going away, there are things you can do to prevent this from happening.

Ways to lower the risk of getting impetigo or having it recur include:

  • Staying away from people with the infection
  • Preventing, treating, and covering open cuts, wounds, and sores on the skin
  • Only using personal clothes, towels, and other items on the skin and washing them regularly
  • Regularly washing hands and showering
  • Keeping environments clean, especially with young children

It is also important not to scratch sores as this can spread the infection to other parts of the body. Because other health conditions, such as diabetes, can increase the risk of impetigo and make it harder for the body to fight the infection, preventing and treating any other health conditions is essential. This includes adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating healthy foods, staying physically active, getting enough quality sleep, and managing stress.


Impetigo is a bacterial infection that easily spreads through contact with an infected person's skin or items, such as clothes or towels. Stress doesn't cause the condition, but it can make it easier to become infected and harder to fight due to a weakened immune system.

Stress can increase symptoms of impetigo and lead to inflammation, which increases the risk of recurrent impetigo if it's gone away. Stress management techniques such as meditation and other mind-body therapy techniques can help with impetigo prevention and treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Impetigo is not a serious condition and generally goes away without complications. However, it can be itchy and uncomfortable. If you or someone you know has signs of impetigo, such as itchy sores on the skin, help is available. Reach out to your healthcare provider for support.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does adult impetigo flare up?

    Impetigo does not usually need to be treated and can go away on its own and not return. However, it can come back after improving. Antibiotic medications can help impetigo clear up more quickly and not return.

  • How many people have impetigo as an adult?

    Impetigo usually occurs in children, but adults can get it too. About 4.9% of people get impetigo as adults.

  • Why does impetigo come back?

    It is not entirely known why impetigo comes back in some people. It may be because the bacteria can live in the nose without symptoms and spread to other areas of the body, such as the skin on the face.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impetigo: all you need to know.

  2. Barbieri E, Porcu G, Dona’ D, et al. Non-bullous impetigo: incidence, prevalence, and treatment in the pediatric primary care setting in ItalyFront Pediatr. 2022;10:753694. doi:10.3389/fped.2022.753694

  3. Russell G, Lightman S. The human stress responseNat Rev Endocrinol. 2019;15(9):525-534. doi:10.1038/s41574-019-0228-0

  4. American Psychological Association. Stress effects on the body.

  5. University of Utah Health. Stress and the skin.

  6. Harvard Medical School. Stress may be getting to your skin, but it's not a one-way street.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Feeling stressed? it can show in your skin, hair, and nails.

  8. Graubard R, Perez-Sanchez A, Katta R. Stress and skin: an overview of mind body therapies as a treatment strategy in dermatologyDermatol Pract Concept. 2021;11(4). doi:10.5826/dpc.1104a91

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impetigo.

  10. National Institute of Health. Impetigo.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 tips to prevent spreading impetigo, and avoid getting it again.

By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.