Symptoms & Treatment

Dr. Phil Mitchell
Medically reviewed by Dr. Phil MitchellMarch 29th, 2024
Cellulitis scratching leg

Cellulitis (pronounced sel-you-ly-tus) is a common bacterial infection that affects the skin and soft tissues. A cellulitis infection makes the skin red, warm, and tender to the touch. It’s important to treat cellulitis to prevent the infection from spreading beyond the skin, which can be more serious.

How Cellulitis is Diagnosed

Cellulitis is best diagnosed by a healthcare professional. It’s usually treated with antibiotics, which should help symptoms improve noticeably within 2-3 days.

Common Treatments for Cellulitis

If you’ve been diagnosed with cellulitis, be sure to follow these guidelines.

  • Take all of your medication as prescribed. It’s essential to finish the prescribed pills, even if the infection is looking and feeling better, to make sure it clears up completely and doesn’t come back.
  • Keep the infected area elevated (above the level of your heart if possible) to reduce swelling and help the healing progress.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. Wash with gentle soap and water once a day and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • Follow up with your primary care provider in 2-3 days to make sure you’re on track. If you’re not able to see your primary provider in the suggested timeframe, DispatchHealth may recommend you schedule a follow-up visit with us.

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • Get seen by a healthcare professional right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms with cellulitis.
  • Spreading redness
  • Severe or intense pain
  • Fever greater than 100.4°F
  • New confusion
  • Drainage from the infected area
  • If cellulitis is over a joint (like a finger, elbow, or knee), increased difficulty bending the joint may mean the infection has spread to the joint, and it should be checked immediately

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