Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of the skin that must be treated rapidly to prevent death. According to the National Institutes of Health, staphylococcus and streptococcus are the bacteria most commonly responsible for cellulitis. The infection may affect the surface of the skin or may spread to deeper tissues, lymph nodes or the bloodstream. Symptoms of cellulitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, include a swollen, red, hot and tender area of tissue that spreads rapidly, The lower legs are most often affected, but cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body.
Apply cool, wet bandages or towels to the affected area to ease discomfort and reduce inflammation, suggests the Merck Manual.
Get plenty of rest to speed recovery and help resolve cellulitis. Getting sufficient sleep will help boost your immune system, thereby increasing your ability to fight off the bacteria responsible for your infection.
Treat cellulitis with oral antibiotics, which are the primary treatment choice, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most antibiotics need to be taken for 7 to 10 days, and your doctor will likely prescribe a drug that works on both streptococci and staphylococci, such as cephalexin.
Take pain relievers to reduce discomfort. If over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are not strong enough to alleviate your pain, ask your doctor for something stronger.
Raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. This will help with the discomfort of cellulitis, and elevation will greatly speed the healing process.
Disinfect other breaks in the skin with soap and water to keep them clean and prevent the infection from spreading. Cover them with a clean bandage.
Follow up with your doctor, as instructed. Your doctor may mark the affected area with a pen to see if it spreads over time. Cellulitis that continues to spread, even after treatment with oral antibiotics, may require more aggressive care.
Go to the hospital if you develop a high fever, nausea or vomiting, blood pressure problems or if your cellulitis fails to respond to antibiotics. Get immediate medical attention if you develop symptoms of cellulitis near your eyes or if your immune system is impaired.
Tell your doctor immediately if your cellulitis returns. Long-term treatment with antibiotics, often for months or years, may be needed for those with recurrent infections, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.