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Cellulitis

Cellulitis Treatment and Care at Home

You can take the following steps to treat and care for cellulitis at home:

  • Rest the area of the body involved.
  • Elevate the area of the body involved. This will help decrease swelling and relieve discomfort.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). This will decrease the pain as well as help keep the fever down.

Medical Treatment for Cellulitis

  • If the cellulitis infection is not too severe, you can be treated at home. The doctor will give you a prescription for antibiotics to take by mouth for a week to 10 days.
  • The doctor may use intravenous (IV) or intramuscular antibiotics in these situations:
    • If the infection is severe
    • If you have other medical problems
    • If you are very young or very old
    • If the cellulitis involves extensive areas or areas close to important structures like infection around the eye socket
    • If the infection worsens after taking antibiotics for 2-3 days

  • You may need hospitalization if the infection is well developed, extensive, or in an important area, like the face. In most of these cases, IV antibiotics need to be given until the infection is under good control (2-3 days) and then you can be switched to oral medications to be taken at home.

Medications for Cellulitis

Antibiotic medications for cellulitis are prescribed by mouth or by injection. Be sure to tell your doctor about any reactions you may have had in the past to antibiotics.

Surgery for Cellulitis

  • Rarely, severe cellulitis infection may need surgery.
  • An abscess, or collection of pus in the tissue, may need to be opened surgically to allow drainage.
  • Dead tissue may need to be cut away to allow healing.

Next Steps for Cellulitis Treatment

Follow-up

Once you leave the doctor's office, be sure to take all the antibiotics prescribed for your cellulitis. The doctor may want to see you in 2-3 days to see if the cellulitis is improving.

Cellulitis Prevention

  • To prevent cellulitis, it is very important to keep your skin clean by practicing good personal hygiene.
  • If you notice pain or discomfort from an area of the skin, check to see what it looks like. If it appears inflamed and progresses from one day to the next, you will most likely need treatment.
  • Avoid situations that may injure your skin, especially if you have swelling from circulatory problems.
  • Wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes or slippers with loose-fitting cotton socks. Avoid walking barefoot in areas where you do not have a good idea about what you are walking on, for example, in garages, on a littered beach, or in the woods.
  • If you do injure your skin, wash the area with soap and water and check to make sure that the injury is getting better over the next several days.
  • Certain injuries may be at greater risk for cellulitis infection than others. You may need to take antibiotics to prevent infection or have other preventive care. Be sure to contact your doctor if you have injuries such as these:
    • Animal or human bites

    • Puncture injuries deeper than a half-inch, such as stepping on a nail
    • Crushed tissue that bleeds, burns that blister, frostbite, or deep injuries with dirt in them
    • Injuries in contact with sea water, especially if you have liver disease
  • Find out if you have diabetes or other significant medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease. These conditions may be present without symptoms. Follow your doctor's instructions for improving these conditions.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have swelling in your limbs that does not go away.

WebMD Medical Reference

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