- A minor injury to the skin (such as, cut, scratch, blister, burn, puncture, or bite) that becomes infected and spreads into the surrounding skin
- Injuries that occur in natural bodies of water that become infected with germs found in the water
- A cut or abrasion that becomes infected by food bacteria while handling fish, poultry, eggs, or meat
- Bacteria that enter the body through surgical wounds or a catheter in a vein
- Bacteria spreading from an upper respiratory or ear infection
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- Being bitten by an insect, animal, or human
- Having certain conditions (such as, diabetes, HIV, kidney or liver disease, poor circulation)
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Taking steroids on a regular basis
- Undergoing surgery
- Retaining fluids
- Being exposed to certain foods, like raw fish, meat, shellfish, poultry, eggs
Skin inflammation that begins in a small area and spreads with:
- Pain or tenderness
- A red streak (possibly)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Fever or chills
- Wound culture to test for a bacterial infection
- Blood tests to see if the infection has spread to the bloodstream
- Severe cellulitis
- Diabetes or a weakened immune system
- An infection on your face
- Elevating the infected area higher than your heart
- Changing the dressings as directed by your doctor
- Protecting your skin from additional injury
- Avoiding scratching or rubbing the area
- Keep your skin clean.
- Moisturize dry skin with lotion.
Avoid injury to the skin:
- Wear protective gear in sports.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when hiking.
- Wear sandals when at the beach, rather than going barefoot.
- Be careful around animals. Treat pets with respect to avoid bites.
- Do not swim in natural waters if you have cuts or sores.
- Try not to cut yourself during fishing or other water sports.
If a small cut, bite, or other injury occurs, carefully care for the wound:
- Clean cuts or scrapes with soap and water.
- Apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover with a bandage or dressing.
- Do not scratch wounds.
- Call the doctor right away if the area becomes red or inflamed.
- Seek prompt medical care for larger wounds or bites.
- If your legs tend to swell, elevate them several times a day and wear support stockings.
- Get recommended vaccines for children and adults.
American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov
Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Cellulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated March 8, 2012. Accessed July 24, 2012.
Cellulitis. Wexner Medical Center website. Available at: http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare%5Fservices/skin%5Fconditions/skin%5Finfections/bacterial%5Fskin%5Finfections/cellulitis/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed July 24, 2012.
Stevens DL, Bisno AL, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft-tissue infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2005;41(10):1373-1406.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 10/2012 -
- Update Date: 10/11/2012 -