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Cellulitis Consultation


What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is an inflammation of the skin that affects the deeper layers of the skin and the tissues that underlie the skin, and is related to an infection. Characteristically, cellulitis presents as swollen, red, hot skin that is tender or painful and spreads to adjacent areas of skin. It can occur on any skin area of the body but most frequently affects the lower parts of the legs. You may also feel generally unwell, with shivers, chills and fever. However, cellulitis is not contagious.

Can I get treatment online?

The Online Clinic can prescribe medications to treat bacterial cellulitis for next day delivery. If the cellulitis is very serious then online prescribing may not be appropriate. Click on the start button below to begin.

Free Online Assessment Quick and Without Obligation

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis is caused mostly by an infection of the skin's deep and underlying tissues with Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria. Infrequently, it may also result from a fungal infection. It usually develops after damage to the skin's surface allows bacteria to enter the body, such as following a cut, burn, insect or animal bite, sore, surgical wound, or skin condition (e.g. eczema and athlete's foot).

How is cellulitis treated?

Your doctor will assess your medical history, symptoms, and examine the affected skin. Once the skin inflammation is attributed to an infection, treatment will be selected according to the cause, severity, location and extent of cellulitis, and your general health and other medical conditions. Cellulitis is usually treated at home with a course of oral antibiotics, such as flucloxacillin, erythromycin or clindamycin. However, occasionally intravenous antibiotic administration in hospital is required before the oral antibiotic. An antifungal medicine will be used for fungal infections. It is recommended that you rest the affected area, and that any pain and high temperature may be resolved by taking a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

When should a doctor be contacted?

Untreated, cellulitis can lead to serious complications, including blood poisoning (septicaemia), abscesses (pus-containing lumps under the skin), and meningitis (inflammation of the brain membranes from the spread of facial cellulitis). It is therefore recommended that you contact your doctor if an area of skin becomes swollen, red, hot and painful, or if these symptoms rapidly spread, or are coupled with feeling unwell, being sick, fever, dizziness, and/or rapid breathing and heartbeat.

Who is at risk of cellulitis?

Cellulitis is quite a common infection, affecting men and women of all races and ethnicities. It affects people of all ages, but particularly those in their middle and older years. You are at increased risk of cellulitis if you are obese or have a compromised immune system (e.g. through illness or therapy), uncontrolled diabetes, circulation problems, lymphoedema (swelling), or pre-existing skin condition e.g. athlete's foot or eczema. Having previously had cellulitis is also a risk factor.

Free Online Assessment Quick and Without Obligation

How can I reduce the risk of cellulitis?

Not all cases of cellulitis can be prevented (as with people who are at increased risk) but your chances of its occurrence can be reduced by good hygiene, moisturising dry skin, preventing damage to your skin, and attending to wounds with thorough cleansing and appropriate dressings.

Reviewed by: Dr Loraine Haslam MBBS, DRCOG, DFSRH, LoC SDI, LoC IUT, MRCGP
GMC registration number: 4524038
Date: 3 November 2023
Next review: 2 November 2025
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

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