Cellulitis/Local Skin Infections
Cellulitis is a common and sometimes painful bacterial skin infection. It may first appear as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to the touch. The redness and swelling can spread quickly. It most often affects the skin of the lower legs, although the infection can occur anywhere on a person’s body or face.
It’s important to understand the treatment we recommend and the potential risks involved.
Medicine We Prescribe
Risk of Side Effects
Symptoms of cellulitis usually disappear after a few days of antibiotic therapy. However, cellulitis symptoms often get worse before they get better probably because, with the death of the bacteria, substances that cause tissue damage are released.
Risk of Misdiagnosis
Cellulitis — a bacterial infection of the skin — is a common medical condition, yet there is no diagnostic tool for it currently available. The only way to diagnose cellulitis is based on the appearance of the affected area and the patient’s reported symptoms. Many other medical conditions cause skin inflammation that mimics the appearance of cellulitis (known as pseudocellulitis) and are commonly misdiagnosed.
Alternative Treatment Options
You shouldn’t try to treat cellulitis at home, but there are a few things you can do on your own as you recover from a cellulitis infection.
Covering your wound: Properly covering the affected skin will help it heal and prevent irritation. Follow your doctor’s instructions for dressing your wound and be sure to change your bandage regularly.
Keeping the area clean: Follow your doctor’s recommendations for cleaning the affected skin.
Elevating the affected area. If your leg is affected, lie down and elevate your leg above your heart. This will help reduce swelling and ease your pain.
Applying a cool compress. If the affected skin is hot and painful, apply a clean washcloth soaked in cool water. Avoid chemical icepacks, as these can further irritate damaged skin.
Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever: A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Treating any underlying conditions. Treat any underlying conditions, such as athlete’s foot or eczema, that caused the wound that got infected.
Taking all your antibiotics: With antibiotic treatment, the symptoms of cellulitis should begin to disappear within 48 hours, but it’s very important to continue taking your antibiotics until all the pills are gone. Otherwise, it may come back, and the second course of antibiotics may not be as effective as the first.