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What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and the tissue around it. It usually occurs around areas of broken skin, such as wounds, bug bites, or scrapes, but it can also occur in other areas. Patients who have severe cases of cellulitis, or cellulitis that is not treated, can get septicemia (blood poisoning), but cellulitis is not contagious.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

  • Swelling of the lymph glands (filters that remove certain harmful substances, such as bacteria and debris, from lymph fluid)
  • Redness around the area of infection
  • Pus or fluid drainage from the wound
  • Affected area is warm to the touch
  • Chills
  • Fever (temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit)

What can I do for my child if he or she has cellulitis?

If your child has symptoms of cellulitis, take him or her to the doctor for a complete diagnosis and to prevent any complications. Other things you can do include the following:

  • Give your child all medicine as directed by the doctor.
  • Try to keep your child from touching the infected area.
  • Wash your hands before and after caring for the infected area.
  • Do not squeeze or puncture the area.
  • Use a warm compress on the affected area.
  • Keep the affected limb rested.
  • Call your doctor if you notice increased swelling, redness, or pain.

Do children need to be hospitalized for cellulitis?

Although cellulitis is easily diagnosed and usually treated with antibiotics, some children may need to be hospitalized. Your child's doctor may do blood work to test for blood poisoning. If your child is admitted to the hospital, his or her treatment may include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics
  • Warm compresses on the affected area
  • Resting or raising the affected area

How can I prevent my child from getting cellulitis?

  • Clean the wounds or sores with soap and water.
  • Use an antibiotic ointment and bandage to cover wounds.
  • Do not allow your child to rub or scratch the affected area.
  • Make sure your child wears protective clothing when outdoors or playing sports.
  • Get medical attention right away for any deep cuts or puncture wounds.

Questions to ask your child's doctor about cellulitis:

  • For how long and at what times of the day should I give my child medication, if any?
  • How should I store the medication? In the refrigerator?
  • When will my child start to feel better?
  • Will I need to bring my child back for a follow-up visit?
  • Should I keep my child home from school or day care?
  • From which activities should I limit my child?
  • Are certain foods or liquids more helpful?
  • Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
  • Which over-the-counter medications/preparations are NOT recommended?
  • Which symptoms should I report to the doctor?

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Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/29/2015...#8273