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Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin that typically starts with red, swollen and tender skin that may progress to the formation of blisters 2. In some cases, people with cellulitis may develop a fever and swollen lymph glands 2. Cellulitis is most commonly caused by Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria 2. The condition typically forms on the lower legs, but it can affect any skin on the body. Proper and prompt treatment of cellulitis is essential, because the infection can quickly progress and become life-threatening 2.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
All patients with cellulitis will need to begin antibiotic treatment immediately to kill the bacteria causing the infection 2. This is an important first step in fighting the infection and to help the blisters heal. An oral antibiotic such as cephalexin is often used because it can fight both Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria. Most doctors will prescribe a 10- or 14-day course of antibiotics, and it is important for patients to take all of the prescribed medication, even if symptoms subside within a few days. In severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous antibiotics.
- All patients with cellulitis will need to begin antibiotic treatment immediately to kill the bacteria causing the infection 2.
Complications of Cellulitis
Because cellulitis can be very uncomfortable, patients may want to use home remedies and treatments in conjunction with the antibiotics 2. One effective treatment is to place cool, wet compresses on the affected skin, which will help alleviate the pain and discomfort. These compresses can easily be made at home from towels or other cloths, and be reapplied as often as necessary. Be sure to use cool compresses. Also, talk with your doctor about over-the-counter salves and creams that may be safe to apply to your skin.
- Because cellulitis can be very uncomfortable, patients may want to use home remedies and treatments in conjunction with the antibiotics 2.
- Also, talk with your doctor about over-the-counter salves and creams that may be safe to apply to your skin.
In many cases, doctors will recommend that patients immobilize and elevate the affected skin. For example, if cellulitis develops on the lower legs, your doctor will advise you to keep your legs up as often as possible to help lessen the swelling that often occurs in people with cellulitis 2. If the swelling is severe, you doctor may also recommend wrapping the skin with a large bandage. These also gives the blisters and skin lesions a chance to begin healing.
- In many cases, doctors will recommend that patients immobilize and elevate the affected skin.
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What Are the Causes of Recurring Cellulitis?
- Mayo Clinic – Cellulitis Overview
- Cellulitis Information
- Raff AB, Kroshinsky D. Cellulitis: A review. JAMA. 2016;316(3):325-37. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8825
- Brown BD, Hood Watson KL. Cellulitis. [Updated 2019 Nov 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
- Gunderson CG, Martinello RA. A systematic review of bacteremias in cellulitis and erysipelas. J Infect. 2012;64(2):148055. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2011.11.004.
- Elahi M, Sanchez PJ, Alqudah E, Antonara S. Invasive Haemophilus influenzae infections in children: A 10-year study. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2018;5(Suppl 1):S687. doi:10.1093/ofid/ofy210.1967
- Sullivan T, de Barra E. Diagnosis and management of cellulitis. Clin Med (Lond). 2018;18(2):160–163. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.18-2-160
- American Academy of Dermatology. Cellulitis. 2018.
- Gunderson CG, Martinello RA. A systematic review of bacteremias in cellulitis and erysipelas. J Infect. 2012 Feb;64(2):148055. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2011.11.004.
- Habif, T. Bacterial Infections. Clinical Dermatology, 4th Edition. New York: Mosby, 2004: 236-262.
- Halpern, A., and Heymann. W. Bacterial Diseases. Dermatology. 2nd Edition. New York: Mosby, 2008: 1075-1084.
- Morris JG. Vibrio vulnificus infections. Calderwood SB, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc.
Anna Aronson began working as a journalist in 2000 and spent six years at suburban Chicago newspapers before pursuing freelance work. She enjoys writing about health care topics, in particular obstetrics, pediatrics and nutrition. She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and is now studying for a Master of Science in medicine degree to become a physician's assistant.