Cellulitis is a complication of a bacterial or fungal infection that leads to the development of a painful, red, itchy rash. Most cases of cellulitis are mild and cause only slight discomfort, though a severe or untreated cellulitis infection can lead to fever, breathing difficulties, and potentially fatal heart complications. It is essential for a person who notices a persistent rash to seek medical evaluation to receive an accurate diagnosis and learn about specific infection remedies. Mild cases can usually be relieved with oral antibiotics, though advanced infections often necessitate hospitalization and treatment with intravenous drugs.
Most instances of cellulitis are the result of streptococcus or staphylococcus infections, though many different pathogens can potentially cause problems. When bacteria enter the skin through an open wound, cracked skin, or insect sting, they proliferate and trigger an immune system response that leads to redness and swelling. Rashes tend to be very itchy and painful, though doctors strongly advise against scratching as doing so could further irritate the skin and create new pathways for bacteria to enter the body.
A person who develops an unusual rash can apply a topical anti-itch cream to the affected body part to temporarily relieve symptoms. In addition, elevating and icing the rash can help to lessen swelling. Rashes that are the result of mild dermatitis or allergic reactions tend to go away on their own within a few hours or days, though a cellulitis infection can often get progressively worse without professional care. An individual who has a worsening rash or develops a fever should visit the emergency room as soon as possible.
A doctor can usually diagnose a cellulitis infection by examining the rash and collecting a blood sample for laboratory testing. Treatment measures depend on the type of bacteria or fungus responsible for symptoms. Most bacterial infections, including streptococcal and staphylococcal types, can be treated with a two-week course of oral antibiotics. Penicillin, erythromycin, and vancomycin are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics. In addition to taking daily medications, patients may need to apply topical creams and follow other home care procedures described by their doctors. With treatment and careful follow-up examinations, cellulitis is usually resolved in two to three weeks.
A cellulitis infection that causes severe fever and illness requires more aggressive treatment. A patient is typically admitted into a critical care unit, given intravenous antibiotics and fluids, and carefully monitored to ensure body systems remain stable. Once the patient starts feeling better, he or she may be prescribed oral medicines and allowed to return home. Frequent checkups are necessary to monitor healing and ensure bacteria are fully eradicated.