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Cellulitis

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria. Cellulitis may go away on its own or you may need treatment. Your healthcare provider may draw a circle around the outside edges of your cellulitis. If your cellulitis spreads, your healthcare provider will see it outside of the circle.


DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call 911 if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your wound gets larger and more painful.
  • You feel a crackling under your skin when you touch it.
  • You have purple dots or bumps on your skin, or you see bleeding under your skin.
  • You have new swelling and pain in your legs.
  • The red, warm, swollen area gets larger.
  • You see red streaks coming from the infected area.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your fever or pain does not go away or gets worse.
  • The area does not get smaller after 2 days of antibiotics.
  • Your skin is flaking or peeling off.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics help treat the bacterial infection.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Self-care:

  • Elevate the area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop the area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Clean the area daily until the wound scabs over. Gently wash the area with soap and water. Pat dry. Use dressings as directed.
  • Place cool or warm, wet cloths on the area as directed. Use clean cloths and clean water. Leave it on the area until the cloth is room temperature. Pat the area dry with a clean, dry cloth. The cloths may help decrease pain.

Prevent cellulitis:

  • Do not scratch bug bites or areas of injury. You increase your risk for cellulitis by scratching these areas.
  • Do not share personal items, such as towels, clothing, and razors.
  • Clean exercise equipment with germ-killing cleaner before and after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Use lotion to prevent dry, cracked skin.
    Handwashing
  • Wear pressure stockings as directed. You may be told to wear the stockings if you have peripheral edema. The stockings improve blood flow and decrease swelling.
  • Treat athlete's foot. This can help prevent the spread of a bacterial skin infection.

Follow up with your healthcare provider within 3 days, or as directed:

Your healthcare provider will check if your cellulitis is getting better. You may need different medicine. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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