Culture of any fluid or material inside the affected area
A biopsy may be done if other conditions are suspected
You will likely be prescribed antibiotics to be taken by mouth. You may be given pain medicine as well, if needed.
At home, raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.
You may need to stay in a hospital if:
You are very sick (for example, you have a very high temperature, blood pressure problems, or nausea and vomiting that does not go away)
You have been on antibiotics and the infection is getting worse (spreading beyond the original pen marking)
Your immune system is not working well (due to cancer, HIV)
You have an infection around your eyes
You require antibiotics through a vein (IV)
Cellulitis usually goes away after taking antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. Longer treatment may be needed if cellulitis is more severe. This may occur if you have a chronic disease or your immune system is not working properly.
People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. Cracks in the skin from the fungal infection allow the bacteria to get into the skin.
The following may result if cellulitis isn't treated or treatment doesn't work:
You are being treated for cellulitis and you develop new symptoms, such as persistent fever, drowsiness, lethargy, blistering over the cellulitis, or red streaks that spread
Seek medical attention right away if the cellulitis is on your face.
Protect your skin by:
Keeping your skin moist with lotions or ointments to prevent cracking
Wearing shoes that fit well and provide enough room for your feet
Learning how to trim your nails to avoid harming the skin around them
Wearing appropriate protective equipment when participating in work or sports
Whenever you have a break in the skin:
Clean the break carefully with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment every day.
Cover with a bandage and change it every day until a scab forms.
Watch for redness, pain, drainage, or other signs of infection.
Heagerty AHM. Cellulitis and erysipelas. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 39.
Pasternak MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 95.
Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.