Cellulitis is an infection of the body tissues just underneath the skin. It occurs when harmful bacteria break through the body's natural defenses and begin to spread. If cellulitis is left untreated, it can produce local tissue damage or progress to a more serious generalized infection throughout the body. Risk increases with use of immunosuppressive or cortisone drugs, chronic illnesses, debilitation and conditions such as diabetes mellitus or poor circulation.

The symptoms include pain, redness and swelling at the site of the infection; enlargement and tenderness of nearby lymph glands, sometimes with red streaks spreading toward them; and in more severe cases, fever, chills, aches and weakness.

Home Care for Cellulitis

  • If cellulitis is in the leg or foot, stay at rest in a reclining chair or bed until the symptoms are improving. Elevate the affected part to a level even with your heart; raise the foot of the bed or chair if the area involved is in the foot or leg; prop the arm on a pillow if the hand or arm is affected.

  • You should be able to eat anything your appetite calls for. Good nutrition is extremely important. Avoid alcoholic beverages and cigarettes.

  • Apply warm compresses to the affected area when possible. Warm soaks are best. Be very careful with heating pads to avoid burns. Apply continuously for one hour, rest an hour and repeat as often as is convenient while you are awake.

  • Your medications will be fitted to your particular needs. For a few days, antibiotics may be given intravenously (IV). This may require arranging daily transportation to the clinic. In some instances an agency health nurse may be consulted for at-home administration of medications and dressing changes.

  • Close follow-up is very important as these infections sometimes do not respond to treatment and surgical incision and drainage may become necessary.

  • Be sure any chronic illnesses such as diabetes are kept in good control by following your personal physician's treatment and medication plans.


Call or Return If any of the Following Occur:

  • Fever over 102° F or shaking chills more than 24 hours after medications begun.

  • Nausea and vomiting preventing adequate oral fluids or keeping down medications

  • Recurrence or symptoms after improvement noted

  • Rash or any other suspected medication sensitivity

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