Cellulitis is an infection of the deeper layers of skin and the underlying tissue. It can be serious if not treated promptly.

The infection develops suddenly and can spread through the body quickly. Severe infections can spread deep into the body, andcanbe life threatening.

Most casesare successfully treated with antibiotics at home, although sometimesit needs to be treated in hospital.

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When to get medical advice





Symptoms of cellulitis

Cellulitis causes an area of skin to suddenly become:

  • red
  • hot
  • swollen
  • painful
  • tender

It most often affects the lower legs, but can occur anywhere.

In more severe cases, cellulitis can also be accompanied and often preceded by:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • vigorous shaking (rigors)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • confusion

These are signs that the infection has spread deeper into the body. Many infections can be treated with antibiotic tablets at home.

You'll usually be given a seven-day course of tablets, and your symptomsshould start to improve after a few days.

Make sure you complete the whole course of medicine you've been given, even if you're feeling better. Contact your GP if your symptoms get worse after a few days or don't improve within a week.

For serious infections, treatment is usually started in hospital. You'll normally be given antibiotics directly into a vein through an injection or a drip.

Many hospitals can then arrange for this treatment to continue at home or in an outpatient clinic. Treatment is usually for seven days.

If the infection responds to treatment quickly, it may be possible to complete the course with antibiotic tablets instead of having injections or a drip.

For example amoxicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin.

Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and some others are good for you.
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 11 Aug 2016