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What is it?

Cellulitis is a spreading bacterial infection of the skin and tissues just beneath the skin.  The signs of cellulitis include redness, warmth, swelling and pain, with possibly fever and shivers.  Any existing wound that shows these signs may be developing cellulitis, but it can also occur where there is no obvious break in the skin.

Who can get it?

Anyone can get cellulitis, but you can be especially at risk if you have a compromised immune system ie, those people receiving chemotherapy are particularly prone to developing cellulitis, as are people with problems with the circulation of lymph fluid, such as lymphoedema.

How is it treated?

Medical advice must be sought to determine whether the inflammation is due to an infection. They can do a bacterial swab of the wound or a blood test to see if the white blood cells are raised. The treatment is then oral antibiotics. Doctors will often treat with oral antibiotics without doing the tests, just to be sure.  Sometimes the cellulitis does not respond to one antibiotic so several may be given.  In more severe cases, treatment may require intravenous antibiotics to be administered in hospital.

How to prevent it?

Cellulitis can be prevented by being very careful about skin hygiene.  If you have a cut, scratch or break in the skin, make sure that the area is thoroughly cleaned and treated with an antiseptic, then covered with a clean, dry dressing or plaster.  If the area around the wound becomes red and sore, seek medical advice as soon as possible.