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Cellulitis In Children


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the skin and tissues beneath the skin. The infection can happen in any part of your child's body. The most common areas are the arms, legs, and face.


Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's wound gets larger and more painful.
  • Your child has a thin, gray-brown discharge coming from his infected skin area.
  • Your child has purple dots or bumps on his skin, or you see bleeding under the skin.
  • Your child has new swelling and pain in his legs.
  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • The red, warm, swollen area gets larger.
  • You see red streaks coming from the infected area.
  • Your child feels weak and dizzy.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

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


  • Medicines may be given to help treat the bacterial infection or to decrease pain.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Help your child rest more. Rest can help his body heal the infection.
  • Have your child elevate his wound. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Have him elevate the wound above the level of his heart as often as possible. Prop the wound on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Clean the wound as directed. Clean the wound with soap and water, or as directed. Check for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or pus.

Prevent cellulitis:

  • Protect your child's skin. Have your child wear equipment made for a sport he is playing. For example, have him wear knee and elbow pads when he skates, and a bicycle helmet when he rides his bike. Make sure your child wears shirts and pants that will protect his skin, and sturdy shoes.
  • Wash any scrapes or wounds with soap and water. Put antibiotic cream or ointment, and cover it with a bandage. Check for signs of infection, such as pus or swelling, each time you change the bandage.
  • Do not let your child share personal items, such as towels, clothing, and razors.
  • Have your child wash his hands often. Make sure he washes his hands with soap and water after he uses the bathroom or sneezes. He also needs to wash his hands before he eats. Use lotion to prevent dry, cracked skin.
  • Treat athlete's foot or any other skin condition. This can help prevent a bacterial skin infection by lessening the itching and breaks in the skin.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 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.