Bodywork & Massage Contraindication: Impetigo

Bodywork & Massage Contraindication: Impetigo

Impetigo is a contagious common bacterial skin infection that is a massage contraindication. It can produce blisters or sores anywhere on the body, but usually on the face (around the nose and mouth), neck, hands, and diaper area. It’s preventable and manageable with antibiotics, says pediatrician Thomas D. Smith, MD, of the FDA.

Two types of bacteria found on our skin cause impetigo: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes (which also causes strep throat). Most of us go about our lives carrying around these bacteria without a problem, Smith says, but then a minor cut, scrape or insect bite allows the bacteria to cause an infection, resulting in impetigo.

Anyone can get impetigo — and more than once, Smith says. Although impetigo is a year-round disease, it occurs most often during the warm weather months. There are more than 3 million cases of impetigo in the United States every year.

Untreated, impetigo often clears up on its own after a few days or weeks. The key is to keep the infected area clean with soap and water and not to scratch it. The downside of not treating impetigo is that some people might develop more lesions that spread to other areas of their body.

Dr. Smith states: “To spread impetigo, you need fairly close contact — not casual contact — with the infected person or the objects they touched.” This implies that it is possible for impetigo to be transmitted during massage or bodywork.

Because impetigo spreads by skin-to-skin contact, there often are small outbreaks within a family or a classroom. Avoid touching objects that someone with impetigo has used, such as utensils, towels, sheets, clothing and toys. If you have impetigo, keep your fingernails short so the bacteria can’t live under your nails and spread. Also, don’t scratch the sores.[i]


The lesions shown in this photo on the person’s left forearm proved to be Streptococcal impetigo, a dermatologic condition quite often caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.[ii]

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[i] Office of the Commissioner. “Consumer Updates - How to Treat Impetigo and Control This Common Skin Infection.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Office of the Commissioner, 12 Dec. 2017,

[ii] Miranda, Dr. Herman, Chambers, Peru A. “Public Health Image Library (PHIL).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Dec. 2017,



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