First Aid Handbook: Cellulitis

A man inspects a boy's back
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We may not always admit it, but we are always examining our skin for the occasional bump, scrape, or rash that may appear. As our largest and most visible organ, our skin does a lot and takes on a lot to keep the rest of our body safe. As we examine, squeeze, and pick, we may notice issues that are more unusual, like cellulitis. If you aren’t sure what cellulitis is or how to best treat it, the team at Integrity Urgent Care can help.

What is Cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection deep within the layers of the skin. It is commonly caused when there is a break in the skin, like from a wound, puncture, or incision, that then gets exposed to bacteria. Other times, bacteria can cause cellulitis even without a wound. However, according to the CDC, “in general, people cannot catch cellulitis from someone else.” For most, cellulitis causes red swelling of the skin that can be painful or warm to the touch. Developing fever or chills is not uncommon, as is pitted or blistered skin. Cellulitis most commonly appears on the feet or legs. The most common bacteria that causes cellulitis is group A Streptococcus. 

How can I treat it?

A doctor will diagnose cellulitis with a physical exam of the patient. Antibiotics, either oral or intravenous for more serious cases, will help the patient’s body fight off the bacterial infection. Some doctors will recommend keeping the affected area elevated as much as possible. Additionally, keeping the area clean will be important, especially for future prevention. 

What risks does cellulitis pose?

Most patients with cellulitis easily recover with the help of antibiotics. Some areas, like the joints or the lining of the chambers of the heart, can develop cellulitis and are vulnerable to additional complications. Blood clots or a further issue called necrotizing fasciitis, which can rapidly kill tissue, occur in extreme cases. 

Those who carry extra weight will need to be extra vigilant about cellulitis as it is more common within this population. Additionally, those who frequently have injections increase their exposure. When you have a break in the skin, whether from an animal bite, a scratch, or from another illness, like chicken pox or shingles, make sure to take extra care in washing your hands and the wound site and keeping them clean.

If you think you have cellulitis, it is important we help you recover with the right antibiotics. Our offices are open to help fit your schedule and we can get you in an exam room and on your way with the assistance of our friendly staff. Come see us at Integrity or contact us today. 

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