How Long Does it Take for Cellulitis to Heal?

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJune 4th, 2021

Cellulitis is a common and sometimes serious bacterial skin infection. It often develops on areas of the body with edema (swelling/poor circulation), the site of an injury, the site of a surgery, or around an active skin rash. With proper treatment and care, small patches of cellulitis can heal in around five or seven days. However, the healing process is largely influenced by the severity of your cellulitis as well as your current health condition. For example, severe cases of cellulitis can last for multiple weeks despite treatment. And the risk increases for those with weakened immune systems, a history of cellulitis/skin infections, diabetes, or obese individuals. The biggest takeaway is to seek treatment for your skin infection as soon as possible; the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin and the faster your recovery period will be. For life-threatening, limb-threatening, or time-sensitive symptoms, contact 911 immediately.

Cellulitis Symptoms & Treatment

So, how can you tell if your skin infection is cellulitis? Most cellulitis infections are easy to visually diagnose; your doctor may suggest additional testing to rule out other conditions if the diagnosis is questionable. Cellulitis skin infections are typically painful, red, swollen, and warm to the touch. While cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, it usually appears on the lower legs, face, or arms. It can also occur around cracked or broken skin that’s exposed to bacteria.

Most cases of cellulitis can be treated with an oral antibiotic prescription provided by your doctor. The timeline for your antibiotic will vary depending on the severity of your case and current health. That said, within three days of starting the antibiotic, you should be able to determine whether your infection is responding to treatment. Read on to learn more about the typical healing process of cellulitis with treatment.

Cellulitis Healing Stages

The healing process of cellulitis can be tracked visually. In most cases, symptoms will disappear after a few days on antibiotics. Signs of healing to look for include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Less firmness around the infection
  • Decreased swelling
  • Diminished redness

It’s important to note that sometimes cellulitis symptoms can get worse before they get better during treatment. While waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, you can help lessen symptoms with rest and self-care remedies like:

  • Elevating the affected limb above heart level to bring down swelling
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing
  • Applying cool compresses to the infected site
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication, if professionally advised

Your cellulitis symptoms will likely resolve before you finish taking the prescribed antibiotics. However, you must finish your prescription to ensure complete treatment of the infection.

When to Seek Immediate Care

While monitoring the healing stages of cellulitis, if you notice worsening symptoms, contact your doctor. It could be a sign that the antibiotics aren’t working or a sign of a cellulitis complication. Seek immediate medical care if you develop any new symptoms during treatment, including:

If you think your new skin infection is cellulitis or find worrisome symptoms during treatment, reach out to DispatchHealth. We treat people with severe skin infections like cellulitis in the comfort of their homes. By bringing our on-demand service to you, we can help you receive advanced medical care for exacerbated, painful symptoms. In other words, our on-demand service grants you the opportunity to benefit from comprehensive medical attention without the added stress of arranging for transportation. Best of all, we’re in-network with most insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid.

To learn more about DispatchHealth’s services or to request care today, simply contact us via phone, mobile app, or website. We are rapidly growing! Find advanced urgent care near you.

For life-threatening, limb-threatening, or time-sensitive symptoms, injuries, or illnesses, contact 911 immediately.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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