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What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin. The infection usually involves the face, or the arms and legs. It may happen in normal skin, but it usually occurs after some type of trauma causes an opening in your child's skin. This opening can lead to an infection.

What is the cause of cellulitis?

Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or area of skin that is no longer intact. The most common bacterial causes of cellulitis include the following:

  • Group A ß - hemolytic streptococcus.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae.
  • Staphylococcus aureus.

Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries that occur in water.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of cellulitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of the skin.
  • Tenderness.
  • Warm skin.
  • Pain.
  • Bruising.
  • Blisters.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Chills.
  • Feeling weak.
  • Red streaks from the original site of the cellulitis.

Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Consult your child's physician immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms in your child:

  • A very large area of red, inflamed skin.
  • Fever.
  • If the area affected is causing your child to complain of numbness, tingling, or other changes in a hand, arm, leg, or foot.
  • If the skin appears black.
  • If the area that is red and swollen is around your child's eye(s) or behind the ear(s).
  • If your child has diabetes or has a weakened immune system and develops cellulitis.

The symptoms of cellulitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is cellulitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. Blood and skin samples may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria that is present.

Treatment for cellulitis:

  • Specific treatment for cellulitis will be determined by your child's physician based on:
  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history.
  • Extent of the disease.
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies.
  • Expectations for the course of the disease.
  • Your opinion or preference.
  • Immediate treatment can help prevent the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:
  • Oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
  • Warm, wet dressings on the infection site.
  • Surgical intervention.

If your child has an extremity (arm or leg) that is affected, his/her physician may have you elevate the extremity and decrease the amount of activity

Based on the physical examination, your child's physician may treat your child in the hospital depending on the severity of the cellulitis. In the hospital, your child may receive antibiotics and fluids through an intravenous (IV) catheter.

Are there any complications from cellulitis?

Complications can be reduced with prompt and accurate treatment by your child's physician. The most common complications include the following:

  • Meningitis - an inflammation of the membrane of the brain and the spinal cord.
  • Septic (infectious) arthritis - an infection of a joint caused by bacteria.
  • Glomerulonephritis - an inflammation of the kidneys.
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