What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can affect any area of the body. Not to be confused with cellulite – the cottage-cheese-like, lumpy fat often found on the hips, thighs, and buttocks, primarily of women – cellulitis begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch, allowing bacteria to invade and spread, causing inflammation, which includes pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
- Skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, or infectious diseases that cause skin lesions such as chickenpox or severe acne.
- Circulatory problems such as inadequate blood flow to the limbs, poor venous or lymphatic drainage, or varicose veins.
- Liver disease such as chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Cellulitis
The common symptoms of cellulitis are as follows:
- Redness of the skin.
- Red streaking of the skin or broad areas of redness.
- Pain or tenderness.
- Drainage or leaking of yellow clear fluid or pus from the skin
- If the condition spreads to the body via the blood, then fevers and chills can result.
Causes of Cellulitis
- Injuries that break the skin.
- Infections related to a surgical procedure.
- Foreign objects in the skin.
- Certain types of insect or spider bites also can transmit the bacteria that start the infection. Areas of dry, flaky skin also can be an entry point for bacteria, as can swollen skin.
Treatment of Cellulitis
Self-Care at Home
- Rest the area of the body involved.
- Elevate the area of the body involved. This will help decrease swelling and relieve discomfort.
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin).
- his will decrease the pain as well as help keep the fever down.
If the infection is not too severe you can be treated at home. The doctor will give you a prescription for antibiotics to take by mouth for a week to 10 days.
The doctor may use intravenous (IV) or intramuscular antibiotics in these situations:
- If the infection is severe.
- If you have other medical problems.
- If you are very young or very old.
- If the cellulitis involves extensive areas or areas close to important structures like infection around the eye socket.
- If the infection worsens after taking antibiotics for 2-3 days.
- You may need hospitalization if the infection is well developed, extensive or in an important area, like the face. In most of these cases, IV antibiotics need to be given until the infection is under good control (2-3 days) and then you can be switched to oral medications to be taken at home.
Children with milder cellulitis can be treated at home with the entire course of prescribed oral antibiotics, but with follow-up from the doctor to make sure symptoms are improving. The doctor may also suggest that the affected part of the body be immobilized and elevated to reduce swelling and pain. Using pain-relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also help reduce discomfort.
After 1 or 2 days of antibiotics at home, your child’s doctor may schedule an office visit to check that the area of cellulitis has improved and that the antibiotics are working to heal the infection.
Prevention of Cellulitis
- Wash your wound daily with soap and water.
- Watch for signs of infection.
- Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Change them at least daily or whenever the bandage becomes wet or dirty.
- Moisturize your skin regularly.