Cellulitis : Know The Common Causes, Prevention And Treatment Options


A frequent and sometimes dangerous bacterial skin infection is called cellulitis. The afflicted skin is usually uncomfortable and heated to the touch, as well as swollen and inflamed.

Although it can happen on the face, arms, and other places, cellulitis mostly affects the lower legs. When germs enter through a skin crack, an infection results.

If the infection is not treated, it may spread to the bloodstream and lymph nodes and quickly turn fatal. It does not transmit from person to person.


When germs, most frequently streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter via a crack or break in the skin, cellulitis is the result. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a more dangerous staphylococcus infection, is becoming increasingly common.

Cellulitis may happen everywhere in the body, but the lower leg is where it happens most frequently. Most bacteria penetrate damaged, dry, flaky, or swollen skin through cuts, puncture wounds, ulcers, athlete's foot, or dermatitis. Bacteria can also enter through a recent surgical site.

A bacterial infection is the cause of cellulitis.

If your skin is damaged, as can be the case from an insect bite or cut, or if it is cracked and dry, the germs can infect the deeper layers of your skin.

The skin break might occasionally be too tiny to notice.

Since cellulitis affects the deeper layers of the skin, you cannot contract it from another person.

Cellulitis is more likely to affect you if you:

  • If you are overweight and find it difficult to walk around because you, for example, have poor circulation in your arms, legs, hands, or feet.
  • Have lymphoedema, which causes fluid to accumulate under the skin, have a compromised immune system, such as from chemotherapy or diabetes, or inject medications
  • Have a surgical incision and a history of cellulitis
  • Athletes' feet have to be treated right away by those who are more susceptible to cellulitis.

How to check if you have Cellulitis?

Early detection and treatment of cellulitis are crucial because the infection can spread quickly throughout your body.

In case of emergency, please consult your doctor if you have the following:

  • You have a rash that is painful, swelling, or changing quickly.
  • You are feverish.
  • You do not have a fever, but you do have a growing, sensitive, and swollen rash.

Risk Factors

Cellulitis risk factors include the following:

Injury. Any fracture, burn, scrape, or cut provides a point of entrance for germs.

Immune system impairment. The risk of infection is increased by illnesses that impair immunity, such as diabetes, leukemia, and HIV/AIDS. The immune system can also be weakened by some drugs.

Skin problems. Eczema, athlete's foot, and shingles are a few conditions that can lead to cracks in the skin, which serve as entrance points for germs.

Lymphedema is a long-lasting (chronic) swelling of the arms or legs. Sometimes this syndrome develops following surgery.

A background of cellulitis. The likelihood of developing cellulitis again rises with prior exposure.

Weighing too much. Cellulitis risk is heightened by excess weight.


Cellulitis affects one side of the body. Its warning signs and symptoms might be:

  • A sensitive region of the skin that becomes inflamed
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Warmth 
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Spots
  • Blisters
  • Skin crevasses


Your doctor could suggest preemptive antibiotics if your cellulitis reappears. When you have a skin wound, take the following actions to help avoid cellulitis and other infections:

  • Every day, use soap and water to wash the wound. Gently perform this like you would when taking a bath.
  • If using a lotion or ointment for protection may be beneficial, ask your doctor or other medical professional. A nonprescription ointment (such as Vaseline, Polysporin, or others) provides sufficient protection for the majority of surface wounds.
  • Bandage the wound after cleaning it. At least once every day, change bandages.
  • Keep an eye out for infection indications. Pain, swelling, and pus are all warning signs of potential infection and the requirement for medical attention.
  • To avoid skin damage, people with diabetes or weak circulation should take particular measures.
  • Examining your feet every day. Check your feet often for indications of injuries to help you identify infections early.
  • Daily use of skin moisturiser. Skin lubrication helps stop peeling and cracking. Moisturiser should not be used on exposed wounds.
  • Gently cut your fingernails and toenails. Be careful not to damage the skin around it.
  • Safeguarding your feet and hands. Wear gloves and shoes that are appropriate for your activities.
  • Addressing skin-surface infections as soon as they arise, such as athlete's foot. Minor skin diseases can spread quickly from one person to another. As soon as a fungal infection appears, treat it.


A prescription oral antibiotic is frequently used in the treatment of cellulitis. Inform your doctor if the infection is responding to therapy within three days after beginning an antibiotic. Even if you start to feel better, you must take the antibiotic for the whole course, which is typically 5 to 10 days.

Generally, a few days after you begin therapy, symptoms go away. You may need to be admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics intravenously.

Antibiotics used orally have minimal impact on the symptoms and indicators.

A doctor will recommend antibiotic medications, often for a week, for moderate cellulitis that only affects a tiny patch of skin.

During the first 48 hours of therapy, your symptoms may grow worse, but they should then start to get better.

If two to three days after taking antibiotics, you still do not feel better, speak with a doctor. Even if you feel better, it is crucial to continue taking antibiotics until they are done.

Most people recover completely between 7 to 10 days.

If your cellulitis is severe, a hospital visit may be recommended for treatment. Low-dose, long-term antibiotics may be provided to certain persons with recurrent cellulitis to prevent recurrent infections.

You additionally take antibiotics to treat cellulitis.  You can aid in hastening your recuperation by trying the following:

  • Using ibuprofen or paracetamol to treat the discomfort
  • Regularly moving the joint next to the affected body part, such as your wrist or ankle, will prevent it from becoming stiff. 
  • Raising the affected body part on a cushion or chair when you are sitting or laying down will minimise swelling.
  • Avoid dehydration by consuming plenty of fluids, and postpone using compression stockings until you feel better.

Reducing your risk of contracting cellulitis once more entails:

  • Keeping skin moisturised and clean, treating any cuts or wounds with antiseptic cream.
  • Avoiding cuts and scratches by using the proper gear, including gloves if working outside.

Complications of Cellulitis

Bacteremia, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, toxic shock syndrome, and sepsis can develop from untreated cellulitis. Rarely, the infection may spread to the deep tissue layer called the fascial lining. A deep-layer infection is one example, as is necrotizing fasciitis. It is a serious emergency.

Cellulitis that recurs often can harm the lymphatic drainage system and result in long-term swelling of the afflicted limb.

If it is not treated right away, the infection may spread to the blood, muscles, and bones, among other areas of the body.

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Page last reviewed: May 25, 2023

Next review due: May 25, 2025

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