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What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and surrounding tissue. It occurs most commonly around areas of broken skin, such as wounds, bug bites, or scrapes, but it can also occur in other areas. Severe and untreated cases of cellulitis may result in septicemia (blood poisoning), but cellulitis is not contagious.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

  • Swelling of the lymph glands
  • Redness around the area of infection
  • Pus or fluid drainage from the wound
  • The affected area is warm to the touch
  • Chills
  • Fever (temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit)

What can I do for my child at home?

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

  • Giving your child all medicine as directed by the doctor
  • Trying to keep your child from touching the infected area
  • Washing your hands before and after caring for the infected area
  • Not squeezing or puncturing the area
  • Using a warm compress on the affected area
  • Keeping the affected limb rested
  • Calling your doctor if you notice increased swelling, redness, or pain

Do children need to be hospitalized for cellulitis?

Although it 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 admitted to the hospital, your child’s treatment may include:

  • Fluids and antibiotics given by IV
  • Warm compresses applied to the affected area
  • Resting or raising of the 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 prompt medical attention for any deep cuts or puncture wounds.

Questions to ask your child’s doctor

  • 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: 10/5/2012...#8273