Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria.
Skin infection - bacterial
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.
Normal skin has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, these bacteria can cause a skin infection. Skin in the infected area will become red, hot, irritated, swollen, and painful.
Culture of any fluid or material inside the affected area
You will likely be prescribed antibiotics to be taken by mouth. You may be given pain medicine as well.
At home, raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.
You may need to stay in a hospital if:
You are very sick (for example, you have a very high temperature, blood pressure problems, or nausea and vomiting that does not go away)
You have been on antibiotics and the infection is getting worse
Your immune system is not working well (due to cancer, HIV)
You have an infection around your eyes
You require antibiotics through a vein (IV)
Cellulitis usually goes away after taking antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. Longer treatment may be needed if cellulitis is more severe. This may occur if you have a chronic diseases or your immune system is not working properly.
People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. Cracks in the skin from the fungal infection allows the bacteria to get into the skin.
You are being treated for cellulitis and you develop new symptoms, such as persistent fever, drowsiness, lethargy, blistering over the cellulitis, or red streaks that spread
Seek medical attention right away if the cellulitis is on your face.
Protect your skin by:
Keeping your skin moist with lotions or ointments to prevent cracking
Wearing shoes that fit well and provide enough room for your feet
Learning how to trim your nails to avoid harming the skin around them
Wearing appropriate protective equipment when participating in work or sports
Whenever you have a break in the skin:
Clean the break carefully with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment every day.
Cover with a bandage and change it every day until a scab forms.
Watch for redness, pain, drainage, or other signs of infection.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009; chap 9.
Kaplan AP. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Adkinson NF Jr., Bochner BS, Busse WW, et al., eds. In: Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 61.
Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.