Redness. Swelling. Tender, hot skin. Unfortunately, you’re not looking at the words of a bad romance novel – you’re looking at a serious infection that can possibly be fatal without proper treatment. Cellulitis is an infection in the deep layers of your skin. It starts innocently enough with an insect bite or cut usually, but it then develops into something far worse. As bacteria enter that small opening in the skin, it settles into an infection deep in your skin’s layers. The infection spreads – usually quickly – until you’re feverish, feeling chills, and even experiencing swelling in your glands.

A large red section of your skin is tender to touch and feels warm. Red streaks shoot out from the infected spot and now there is only one thing left to do – seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Without help, this deep skin infection can be deadly. Fortunately, once you have proper medical care and antibiotics, cellulitis is generally straightforward to treat and often preventable to at least a certain degree by using basic safety and health techniques at home or work.

While we are not a team of medical professionals able to treat or diagnose individual cases of cellulitis, you will find the information you need to understand cellulitis contained on these pages. After all, with a condition as serious as cellulitis, it is imperative that you know what to look for, what to expect and – best of all – how to beat and prevent the condition going forward.

The Basics

Cellulitis is a condition that does not discriminate based on age or health – it is a deep seated infection that can turn deadly without proper care and attention. Your skin is your body’s best defense against any number of diseases, including infection. It is your largest organ and is generally good at its job. In the case of cellulitis, however, your skin’s defenses have been breached and a deep seated infection develops.

In many cases, cellulitis starts innocently enough with a cut, burn or insect bite. With the opening in the skin, bacteria now have a channel inside the body. As the bacteria enter the body through the small opening, it starts to spread into the larger tissues of the body including the deeper layers of the skin.

The bacteria develop into an infection that can spread quickly, and if antibiotics are not used to heal the infection, it can continue to spread into the body causing an infection of the lymph nodes or even the blood. At this point, the infection becomes deadly without prompt and appropriate medical intervention. While the vast majority of cellulitis patients acquire the infection through an opening such as a cut or insect bite, it is possible to develop the condition without a break in the skin. The individuals most susceptible to the skin infection in this way are older adults or those with weakened immune systems. Diabetes patients can be more likely to contract the infection without a cut or bite as well.

Those with existing health conditions are more likely to develop dangerous symptoms with the cellulitis as well as being increasingly more likely to contract the disease more than once.

The Symptoms of Cellulitis

It is critical that cellulitis be inspected by medical personnel in order to start the right antibiotics quickly once you suspect that you may have the skin infection.

The first warning signs of the infection include a patch of skin that is red and swollen. The section will also be tender and likely feel warm to the touch as well. Additional symptoms appear as the infection spreads through the skin and body including a fever, feeling chills and you may have swollen glands throughout the body as well.

The most common areas for cellulitis are the legs, face and arms, but the infection can break out anywhere on the body. In children, the most common areas of infection are around the anus or on the face. Cellulitis on the face is especially dangerous as it can lead to severe eye infections.

While the general symptoms of cellulitis – red, swollen skin and feeling tender – can describe any number of conditions that are not overly dangerous including a typical response to a bug bite, there are indicators that you may be facing an actual case of cellulitis.

The following are all indications of a growing infection, and you should seek medical attention quickly:

  • The reddened area of skin is growing, becoming painful or has red streaks extending from it.
  • You develop fever and chills.
  • The infected area appears on your groin or is on or near your face.

Preventing Cellulitis

While it’s impossible to go through life without paper cuts or mosquito bites, you can take steps to prevent some means of infection. Cellulitis can start or be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • Skin injuries including cuts or wounds
  • Burns on the skin
  • Animal and insect bites
  • Ulcers, eczema or psoriasis on the skin.
  • Fungal infections like athlete’s foot
  • Medical conditions including diabetes
  • Edema, or fluid buildup, in the limbs of the body.
  • Liposuction.
  • Illegal drug use through intravenous needles.

To offer yourself some measure of protection, you should be proactive about developing inviting conditions or exposing yourself to additional bacteria.

  • Wear gloves when working in the dirt or with raw meats where bacteria are known to be present.
  • Wash hands regularly to avoid transferring bacteria to other areas of your body.
  • Bathe regularly.
  • Clean injuries immediately to remove bacteria with peroxide or other medical cleansing agents.
  • Cover and protect all injuries or exposed skin from bites or burns.
  • Wear long pants and sleeves when working out of doors when possible.
  • Check your body regularly for suspicious areas or redness.
  • Follow doctor’s instructions carefully following surgical procedures.
  • Treat skin conditions quickly and thoroughly to avoid open lesions on the skin.

Beating Cellulitis

As soon as you suspect something may be wrong or you may have cellulitis, seek medical assistance. If you do have the skin infection, you will be given antibiotics. Mild cases of cellulitis can be treated with an oral prescription of antibiotics, while severe cases will require hospitalization. Fortunately cellulitis has an excellent rate of recovery, just like most infections, so long as it is detected and treated quickly. Be responsible for your health and follow through on any concerns you may have as soon as possible. Learn more about cellulitis and how to stay safe here.