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Common Questions - Cellulitis

How do you get cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a skin infection that occurs when bacteria get into the deeper layers of your skin through a break in the skin, such as an insect bite or cut. Sometimes the break in the skin can be so small, you don’t even notice it.

Go to a hospital or see a doctor immediately if you think you have cellulitis.

What does cellulitis look like?

Cellulitis usually looks like a red, hot and painful patch of skin. The skin may also blister. Cellulitis can affect any part of your body, but it is most commonly seen on the hands, feet, and lower legs.

You may also notice swollen glands near the infection site.

Is cellulitis contagious?

You cannot catch cellulitis from someone with the condition as the infection affects the deeper layers of the skin.

Is cellulitis painful?

Yes, cellulitis often causes an area of skin to become red, swollen, and painful. The affected skin may begin as a red patch that may become painful after a day or two.

Can cellulitis spread on the body?

If cellulitis is not treated quickly, it can spread to other parts of the body, including the blood, muscles, and bones.

If you have cellulitis near or around your eye, it can spread deeper inside the eyes and into your brain.

It is important to go to a hospital or see a doctor immediately if you think you have cellulitis.

What are the complications of cellulitis?

If it is not treated promptly, cellulitis can spread to another part of the body and cause life-threatening complications, including:

  • an abscess
  • muscle or bone infections
  • a blood infection
  • an infection of the heart valves
  • a brain infection (from cellulitis around an eye)
  • sepsis

Go to a hospital or see a doctor immediately if you think you have cellulitis.

How do you know cellulitis is healing?

You will usually know the infection is healing because your symptoms will start to get better.

What antibiotics may be used to treat cellulitis?

Flucloxacillin, a type of penicillin, is the most commonly used antibiotic tablet for cellulitis. If you are allergic to penicillin, you may be given clarithromycin.

The choice of antibiotics will depend on local guidelines. See your doctor as they can advise you as to which antibiotic is appropriate for you.

Most cases of cellulitis are treated with a week of antibiotic tablets. If the infection has not fully cleared after one week, you may need a second week of antibiotics.

If antibiotic tablets are not helping, you may be given antibiotics through a vein (intravenous).

Why do I keep getting cellulitis?

If you have had cellulitis in the past, you have an increased risk of getting it again in the future. Other factors that can increase your risk of developing cellulitis include:

As a cellulitis infection can start from a small break in the skin, making sure you keep cuts and scrapes clean and patches of dry skin well moisturised may help to reduce your risk of getting cellulitis again.

Speak with your doctor if you keep getting cellulitis. They can give you advice about how to best prevent future episodes.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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