You have had infections before, but nothing like this. Normally if you get a cut or scrape it heals without incident. This time it is red, swollen and painful all the time, and don’t even try to touch it!
What you probably have is a condition called cellulitis. Cellulitis is an infection the skin that in most cases can be treated on an outpatient basis with oral antibiotics. However left untreated it can advance into a more serious case of cellulitis or worse, a deeper soft tissue or bone infection.
Typical symptoms can include redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth to site of infection, a red streak extending from site of infection, and swollen or painful lymph nodes. In severe cases cellulitis can lead to systemic infection that can causes, nausea, vomiting, fever or chills.
A few guidelines to prevent cellulitis are as follows.
- Make sure all wounds are cleansed with soap and water after injury.
- Apply a bandage with antibiotic ointment to reduce risk of infection.
- If it is a cut or scrape, these simple wound cares instructions are usually sufficient, but if a laceration or puncture occurs see a doctor immediately.
When you see redness extending around the wound greater than 1 cm (about a quarter inch) think of it as your red stop sign to stop the treatment you are doing at home and see a doctor immediately.
If you are diabetic, have poor blood flow, or cannot fight infection well due to medication or another disorder, see a doctor immediately!
Life can get busy and we don’t always take the best care of ourselves, but get treated early for cellulitis because it you wait too late, you may have a date at the hospital.