Cellulitis: A Potentially Dangerous Skin Infection

August 25, 2010

Redness (infection) spreading from a wound

Cellulitis is a skin infection. Any cut, crack, tear, etc. can become infected and result in cellulitis (although leg cellulitis is most common). For that reason, there are two ways to understand cellulitis: as the initial skin wound, and as a skin infection which may persist as a large red area. Symptoms of cellulitis may change as the wound closes, and may vary depending on how the infection spreads (or doesn’t).

Once you have a wound, watch for the following Cellulitis symptoms:

  • A red rash-like spot spreading from the wound site.
  • Signs of inflammation, including swelling and pain.
  • A hot, tender felling around the infected area, that may increase in pain depending on the wound type and size and the severity of infection.

If the infection spreads, watch for:

  • A fever.
  • General swelling and joint tenderness.
  • Nausea.

Cellulitis symptoms can resemble that of other serious diseases, including a blood clot and lyme disease. If you experience deep, warm pain and swelling, see your doctor for a diagnoses, especially if you are on medication that may cause clotting or have a genetic predisposition to clotting. If you have been exposed to areas where ticks live, get your rash diagnosed to rule out lyme disease.

The bacteria Streptococcus and Staphylococcus as well as others exist naturally on your skin, and may cause a cellulitis infection if there is a break in the skin. You can also get foreign bacteria in the skin opening which may cause an infection if it’s not defeated by your immune system. With the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, the seriousness of a skin infection is exponentially increased.

Cellulitis can become serious if the infection spreads into deeper layers of the skin, into other parts of the body (particularly the blood or brain), or if the bacteria that caused the infection proves to be antibiotic resistant. In the case where cellulitis infection lasts a long time and does not respond to initial treatment, some skin may have to be removed.

The best thing to do is take preventative measures-any cut, crack, skin break or tear, blister, burn, bug bite, wound (hospital or otherwise), needle injection (medical or tattoo)-can cause an infection, so make sure to immediately treat any injuries, and follow appropriate safety measures to avoid injury. Mild wounds can be washed with soap and water, more severe ones may require stitches and ointments. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin flush (not dry) and healthy, and apply a natural moisturizer to keep it safe from cracking.

You are more prone to get cellulitis (or any infection) if you have other diseases such as diabetes or obesity, and particularly if you have a skin disease such as chickenpox/shingles and eczema, a weakened immune system (people tend to have weaker immune systems as they age), or if you have been to a crowded place where antibiotic resistant bacteria is likely to grow (hospital, gym, locker-room).

Cellulitis is not very contagious, but may recur if the infection circulates, and can become chronic. Chronic cellulitis may affect a deeper layer of skin, causing redness and bubbling (as a result of air from the bacteria–analogous to yeast in bread). The natural way to protect yourself from cellulitis and to prevent recurrence is to strengthen your immune system by eating right, exercising, sleeping enough, and by supplementing appropriately.

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