Cellulitis, or erysipelas, is a bacterial skin infection that happens in both children and adults. In most cases, the skin infection is caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria. It frequently occurs from a skin injury, such as a cut, insect sting, animal bite, or scratching from eczema or chicken pox. It also may occur when children have problems with their immune systems. Cellulitis is not contagious.
An area of the skin becomes red, warm, and painful to the touch. The affected area may be raised or swollen. There is often a sharp edge where the infected skin meets healthy skin. The affected skin area will get bigger in size as the infection spreads, and there may be streaks of red leading away from the area. Some children may have a fever and the lymph nodes near the affected area may become enlarged, so they can be seen and felt under the skin.
Lower chances of skin injuries and cellulitis by making sure your child uses the right safety gear when playing sports activities, and keep your child's fingernails trimmed and clean. If your child ever has a skin injury, be sure to clean and care for the wound carefully. Children with eczema are more likely to end up with bacterial skin infections, so develop good treatment routines like using moisturizers daily to avoid dry and itchy skin.
In cases of less serious infections, your doctor will prescribe a course of oral antibiotics, and it is important to follow the prescribed course. A follow-up visit will be scheduled a few days after starting the treatment to make sure the condition is improving. The affected part of the body should be kept at rest and slightly raised to minimize swelling and pain. Ask your doctor about giving your child pain-relieving medication such as acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Children's Advil). For serious forms of cellulitis, antibiotics must be given intravenously and hospitalization will be needed.
If treated promptly, cellulitis does not usually cause complications. In rare cases the bacteria may pass into the bloodstream and cause a blood infection, possibly damaging the internal organs, such as the heart and kidneys. Cellulitis of the skin around the eye, called periorbital cellulitis, can be particularly dangerous. It is more common in children than adults. If this condition is not treated quickly with antibiotics, the orbit (where the eyeball is) may also become infected, causing orbital cellulitis.
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