School sores ‘impetigo’ is caused by Staphylococcus aureus better known as“golden staph”.  

Which is a bacteria that commonly live on the skin lurking in the groin and nostrils without causing problems. However, if untreated it can cause a serious infection

Useful Facts

  • A common bacterial skin infection mostly in children 2 to 5 years of age, but adults can get school sores
  • The staph bacteria is found on the skin and in the nose of 30–50 per cent of people without causing disease. It will only cause an infection when it can enter through a wound or open skin. A staph infection normally only develops in the elderly, the very sick or those who have an open wound. Healthy people rarely become infected.
  • It can only catch school sores by skin-to-skin contact. You cannot catch it just by being in the same room as an infected person. Good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of staph.
  • Several medical studies indicate that children prone to atopic dermatitis and eczema have been prone to school sores.

Staph generally causes no problems or illness. If the bacteria enters the body through a wound, cut or graze, insect bites, abrasions, or open skin (e.g. broken skin from eczema), it results in an infection. Staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections and can cause serious wound infections.

What do school sores look like?

In most people (about 70%), the rash starts with a red area which develops into small blisters “bullous impetigo” filled with clear fluid or pus. The sores begin as red areas, or crops of small blisters, most commonly around the nose and mouth, and on the arms and legs. When the sores then burst and begin to weep, before drying with a golden yellow, honey-coloured scab, often referred to as a “non-bullous impetigo”.

The infected sores:

  • Are less than 1 inch in diameter
  • Start as small red bumps, which rapidly change to cloudy blisters, then pimples, and finally sores
  • Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab
  • May cause swollen lymph glands in the area near the sores
  • Found to be draining pus

Small blisters (school sores) appear on the skin one to three days after being infected by staph. If it was a strep infection, it would be four to ten days. Commonly school sores can appear around the arms and legs. Similarly, if the school sores are around the nose and mouth area these are caused by a strep infection of the nose. This process usually takes about a week. People who are immune suppressed may have more lesions and these may take longer to clear up.

How to prevent school sores spreading?

Every time your child touches the school sore and then scratches another part of the skin with that finger, they can start a new site of school sore. To prevent this, encourage your child not to touch or pick at the sores. Keep their fingernails cut short, so the bacteria can’t live under their nails and spread. Wash their hands often with one of the antibacterial liquid soaps. Cover the sores with a Band-Aid if they are not on the face.

If only a small crop of sores is present, frequent washing with antibacterial body wash and water might be all that is needed. A prescription antibiotic ointment can also be used. Oral antibiotics are often necessary, if the sores are more widespread, or there is evidence of infection spreading into the deeper skin. Because school sores spread by skin-to-skin contact there often are small outbreaks within a family or a daycare centre. Avoid touching objects that someone with school sores has used, such as towels, sheets, clothing and toys, for instance.

If you have recurrent outbreaks of school sores this is usually due to the bacteria living in places that the antibiotics cannot reach. This includes the nasal passage, the fingernails and under the arms. Treating these areas is important, and your doctor can assist you in recommending antibiotic ointment for the nasal passage or other areas. Sometimes it is necessary to treat the whole family.

Can school sores be cured?

Yes. If your child develops the sores, the following measures can reduce the spread of infection, especially during the infectious stage, when the impetigo lesions are oozing or crusting over. Your family’s overall hygiene needs to be controlled by washing your hands often. Furthermore, change pillows and clothes more frequently and bath towels daily. It’s imperative to not use soap bars, and use an antibacterial body washes instead. Avoid scratching the bumps where possible and cover any infected sores with adhesive bandage or clothing. Health guidance is to not share towels, toys, or clothing.

Four natural school sores treatments

1: Certified Organic Manuka Oil

Manuka Oil (scientifically known as Leptospermum Scoparium, if you’re in the mood for technical lingo) is indigenous to New Zealand. It is highly antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral making it extremely effective and beneficial against harmful bacteria that live on the skin‘s surface. It is a saviour for bacterial infections of the skin caused by either Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria such as School Sores. Add 3- 5 drops of Manuka Oil to a bath can help clear the skin of harmful bacteria. Our school sore bundle consisting of Body Lotion, Body Wash and Manuka Oil is formulated to fight bacteria on the skin to reduce the spread of the school sores (and mollusucm).

2: Apple Cider Vinegar:

This treatment is more harsh and aggressive, and while it sometimes leads to positive results, often comes along with some amount of skin irritation. Dab pure apple cider vinegar on the sores to fight the bacteria and ease the inflammation. The apple cider vinegar’s acidity kills the bacteria and helps eliminate the sores. We recommend that if you use an apple cider vinegar wash over the infected skin daily that after you dry off. It’s imperative that you apply the Manuka Biotic Body Lotion, which will help to soothe the skin and provide an antibacterial cover to the skin.

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3: Tea Tree Oil:

For treating a wide variety of skin conditions, tea tree oil is a trusted, side-effect-free solution that can be directly rubbed on the affected school sores. Use a carrier oil mixed with tea tree oil apply to the spots 3-4 times per day. Tea tree oil according to a February 2003 review in “Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy,” tea tree ointment demonstrated “positive results” against impetigo (school sores) in one clinical trial. It has also been proven effective for treating acne and for Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and Streptococcus bacteria infections.

4: Coconut Oil:

One of the most powerful natural remedies for skin conditions is coconut oil, which boasts antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. By rubbing this oil directly on the affected skin areas, you can quickly reduce the inflammation and itchiness, and also kill the virus, thus clearing up the condition.

How long does treatment take?

The type of treatment will depend on the type of impetigo and the severity of symptoms If treated correctly from the first blister to the skin being sealed and repaired will take a week depending on the severity of the outbreak.

Remember, school sores is not harmful, just unsightly. So keep working on the twice-daily application of a little Manuka oil and Body Lotion and spread it over the spots. It does not need to be rubbed into the skin.

Once the body starts attacking the staph infection you might see redness, some swelling, crusting and maybe even drainage of the sore area. This is can be your you little ones complain that their sores are itchier, or the sore might surge with soreness and become the area becomes hot and inflamed as the bacteria is under attack. The application of a small cold ice pack to the sore (still covered by a bandaid) can help to soothe and reduce the inflammation to the area. A surge is not likely to last more than 5 mins to 10 mins. Most children will be able to be distracted by an ice cream of their own in the meantime.

If you have any concerns

Definitely, talk with your doctor if there is any concern or your children is feverish or lethargic, and sores are spreading despite the use of antibiotics (if prescribed). One possible reason for sores not improving on standard antibiotics is infection by an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Infections due to antibiotic-resistant golden staph, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are becoming more widespread, largely due to the widespread use of antibiotics.

School Sore Daily Treatment Checklist

  • Wash the area with  Body Wash when showering and leave it sit on the skin for a few minutes before washing off.
  • Dab the infected area with Manuka Oil via Q-tip once in the morning and once before bed and cover with a Band-Aid.
  • Leave to the oil dry on the skin for a few minutes, then apply the Manuka Body Lotion all over the skin.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after application to the skin to remove bacteria from your hands.

  • If you are short on time, mix 1-2 drops of Manuka oil with a squeeze of Body Lotion in your hand then apply.

What can I do – now and in the future?

If possible, start with prevention. If a family member has the condition, avoid the sharing of baths, towels and close contact with other children. As any parent would know, this is not always easy to achieve. Kids are generally ready to go back to school once they’ve had 24 hours of antibiotics. Covering their school sores with dressings, is highly recommended. For children not taking antibiotics, public health authorities recommend children only return to school when the sores are completely healed. If you have recurrent outbreaks of school sores this is usually due to the bacteria living in places that the antibiotics cannot reach. This includes the nasal passage, the fingernails and under the arms. Treating these areas is important, and your doctor can assist you in taking a nose swab to test for bacteria. . Sometimes it is necessary to treat the whole family.

  • Encouraging your child not to scratch or rub at the bumps

  • Encouraging your child to wash their hands regularly

  • Continue to avoid direct skin contact with the school sores and ensure that all sores are covered with a watertight bandage if your child is participating in group activities where the risk of transferring the bacteria is high

  • Continue to avoid reusing towels and clothes that can spread the infection

  • Do a separate wash (all towels, clothes and bedding) with hot water, a cup of vinegar, and three drops of Manuka Oil to help kill the virus, which will survive a cold wash cycle

  • Continue to avoid baths, as a quick shower is best since the bacteria loves moisture

  • Apply soothing and anti-bacterial creams to help soothe the skin

  • Keep your child’s fingernail short to avoid the spread further of staph bacteria.

  • It is best to keep the child away from people who are on chemotherapy or otherwise immunocompromised

Want to know more?

Many people have dealt with school sores and found ways to manage the stress that comes with it. Consider joining our Facebook page, or our private Facebook group to connect with other Mum’s people who are going through this with you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us on Facebook or drop us an email here

For further information talk to your doctor.

Information displayed on this site is intended for Australian and New Zealand residents only. It is not designed to replace the advice of your healthcare professional. Use of, and access to, the information on this site is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our Terms of Use.

Please read the full ingredient list for any known irritants or allergies. We advise trying new products on a small patch of skin and waiting 24 hours to make sure there is no reaction. Any natural product on the market could contain an ingredient that won’t agree with your skin. You can read more about how to do this here.


1. Tea tree oil as an alternative topical decolonization agent for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; M. Caelli, J. Porteous, C. F. Carson, R. Heller and T.V. Riley; 2000

2. The increasing importance of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections: Jason W. Agostino, John K Ferguson, Keith Eastwood and Martyn D. Dirk, Med J Aust 2017;207(9):388-393

3. Herbal medicines for treatment of bacterial infections: a review of controlled clinical trials;Karen W. Martin Edzard Ernst.Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Volume 51, Issue 2, 1 February 2003, Pages 241–246