Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin that usually occurs after some type of trauma causes an opening in your child's skin.

  • The infection typically involves your child's face or the arms and legs.
  • Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Human or animal bites or injuries that occur in water can also cause infection.
  • Immediate treatment can help prevent the spread of cellulitis.
  • Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Your child's physician may treat your child in the hospital depending on the severity of his condition.

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or an area of skin that is no longer intact. The most common types of bacteria causing cellulitis are:

  • group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus
  • streptococcus pyogenes
  • staphylococcus aureus

Human or animal bites or injuries that occur in water can cause infection of the skin or transmission of other diseases, and should be taken seriously.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

  • swelling of the skin
  • tenderness
  • warm skin
  • pain
  • bruising
  • blisters
  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • feeling weak
  • red streaks from the original site of the cellulitis

Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Consult your child's physician immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • a very large area of red, inflamed skin
  • fever
  • if the area affected is causing your child to complain of numbness, tingling, or other changes in a hand, arm, leg, or foot
  • if the skin appears black
  • if the area that is red and swollen is around your child's eyes or behind the ears
  • if your child has diabetes or has a weakened immune system and develops cellulitis

How do we diagnose cellulitis?

The symptoms of cellulitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. Blood and skin samples may also be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria present.

How do we treat cellulitis?

Specific treatment for cellulitis will be determined by your child's physician based on your child's age, overall health, and medical history.

Immediate treatment can help prevent the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:

  • oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics
  • warm, wet dressings on the infection site
  • surgical intervention
  • rest

If your child's arm or leg is affected, his her physician may also have you elevate the extremity and decrease the amount of activity.

Based on the physical examination, your child's physician may treat your child in the hospital depending on the severity of the cellulitis. In the hospital, your child may receive antibiotics and fluids through an intravenous (IV) catheter.

Are there any complications from cellulitis?

Complications can be reduced with prompt and accurate treatment by your child's physician. The most common complications include:

  • meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane of the brain and the spinal cord
  • septic (infectious) arthritis, an infection of a joint caused by bacteria
  • glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys