What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is bacterial infection of the skin and the tissues beneath the skin. It can occur on any part of the body.

Is cellulitis contagious?

Cellulitis is not contagious.

Who gets cellulitis?

Anyone can get cellulitis, including children. Generally, a wound such as a cut, ulcer, animal bite, or surgical site puts a person at risk for cellulitis. Some people, however, particularly those with a weakened immune system, can get cellulitis without a cut or sore.

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis can be caused by many different bacteria. The most common organisms are group A streptococci and S. aureus. Cellulitis that develops in the setting of a chronic ulcer is often caused by a mix of bacterial species.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

An adult or child with cellulitis often notices prominent symptoms in the affected area. These symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Discharge

Cellulitis can also cause fevers and chills, which may be present before the local symptoms arise.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.

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.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/24/2019.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology. Cellulitis. Accessed 3/19/2019.
  • Bolognia J, Cerroni L, Schaffer, JV, eds. “Bacterial Diseases.” Dermatology. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2018. 1259-1295.

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