What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a common, serious, infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (tissue below the surface of the skin where the fat, nerves, and blood vessels are located). It can happen anywhere on the skin. The infected skin is red, painful, warm, and swollen. As the cellulitis gets worse, the child may have red streaking out from the main area, fevers, or blisters on the skin. Without treatment, the infection may spread to deeper tissues or the bloodstream, and rapidly becoming a life-threatening problem.
What is the cause?
Cellulitis usually is caused by bacteria entering the skin through a cut, scratch, splinter, wound, burn, insect/bug bite, or animal bite. Sometimes, cellulitis can happen without a break in the skin.
How is it diagnosed?
There is no test for cellulitis. Your child’s health care provider will most likely diagnose cellulitis by just examining the skin. Depending on the how the skin looks they may decide some tests are needed.
What is the treatment?
- In the hospital the antibiotic may be given by mouth or in their vein.
- At home, your child will be given a prescription for antibiotics by mouth.
- It is important this prescription be filled as soon as possible, and that your child take all of the medicine as instructed. Do not stop it the medication if the signs of the cellulitis go away.
- Place a warm, wet towel to the area of cellulitis for 15-20 minutes, three to four times a day
- If possible, elevate the area above the level of the heart. This will help decrease pain and swelling.
You may give your child Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) for pain if needed. The instructions on the packaging tell you how much to give your child.
How can cellulitis be prevented?
It is important to keep your child’s skin clean. This is even more important when they have any type of skin injury (cut, blister, open wound). The best way to clean a wound is to place the injured area under running water for several minutes. This lets the bacteria to be rinsed out of the wound. Then, cover with a clean, dry dressing or band aid. If you are worried the wound is or may become infected, or has cellulitis, call your child’s health care provider.
When should I call my child’s health care provider?
You should call you child’s health care provider for:
- Fever over 101˚F (38.3˚C) forty-eight hours after starting antibiotics
- Area of cellulitis is getting bigger forty-eight hours after starting antibiotics.
- Unusual sleepiness, tiredness, irritability (crying more than usual), or seems very sick.
- Vomiting, not drinking, or if your child is unable to take their antibiotic.
- Open or draining wound