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How Long Does Cellulitis Take To Heal With Antibiotics

How Can I Prevent Cellulitis

Cellulitis Healing Stages

Cellulitis may not always be preventable, particularly in the elderly or people with a weak immune system. However, the following may help to reduce your risk of developing cellulitis in some cases:

  • If you have swollen legs, try to keep them elevated as high as possible while you’re sitting down. This may well be the most important thing you can do to prevent skin infections like cellulitis in your lower legs.
  • Clean any cuts or wounds that you may have. You can wash them under running tap water. You may want to use an antiseptic cream. You can also cover the cut or wound with a plaster. However, make sure that you change the plaster regularly .
  • Don’t let your skin become too dry. Dry skin can crack easily and germs can enter through the skin cracks. Use a moisturiser regularly on your skin.
  • Avoid scratching your skin if possible. Conditions such as eczema can make skin very itchy. If your fingernails are long, they can cause a break in the skin when you are scratching. These breaks can be an entry point for germs. So, keep your fingernails short and avoid scratching as much as possible.
  • If you have had episodes of cellulitis in the past then you may be given a long-term course of low-dose antibiotics . These have been shown to reduce future episodes of cellulitis.

What Can I Expect If I Have Cellulitis

With early diagnosis and treatment, the outlook for people with cellulitis is good. Most people feel better after seven to 10 days.

Its very important to take cellulitis seriously and get treatment right away. Cellulitis can quickly progress and lead to more severe conditions. The bacteria could spread to your bloodstream or heart , which may be fatal.

When To Seek Immediate Care

While monitoring the healing stages of cellulitis, if you notice worsening symptoms, contact your doctor. It could be a sign that the antibiotics arent working or a sign of a cellulitis complication. Seek immediate medical care if you develop any new symptoms during treatment, including:

  • The infection spreading or growing
  • An abscess around the infection

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For life-threatening, limb-threatening, or time-sensitive symptoms, injuries, or illnesses, contact 911 immediately.

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How Do I Take Care Of Myself

  • Follow your healthcare providers instructions. Its important to finish your full course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. If you dont finish your full course of medicine, your cellulitis may come back and be more challenging to treat.
  • Refrain from touching the affected area. If you must touch the affected area, wash your hands before and after touching it. Dont squeeze or puncture the area. Squeezing and puncturing wont drain any swelling or provide relief.
  • Rest. Its a good idea to avoid any activities that may aggravate your affected areas, including walking, running or other exercises.

How Long Does It Take For Cellulitis To Heal

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Cellulitis is a common and sometimes serious bacterial skin infection. It often develops on areas of the body with edema , the site of an injury, the site of a surgery, or around an active skin rash. With proper treatment and care, small patches of cellulitis can heal in around five or seven days. However, the healing process is largely influenced by the severity of your cellulitis as well as your current health condition. For example, severe cases of cellulitis can last for multiple weeks despite treatment. And the risk increases for those with weakened immune systems, a history of cellulitis/skin infections, diabetes, or obese individuals. The biggest takeaway is to seek treatment for your skin infection as soon as possible the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin and the faster your recovery period will be. For life-threatening, limb-threatening, or time-sensitive symptoms, contact 911 immediately.

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Ruling Out Other Conditions

If cellulitis isn’t getting better with antibiotics, doctors should make sure that the symptoms aren’t caused by another condition. According to Dr. Mostaghimi, other types of infections are sometimes misdiagnosed as cellulitis, which can delay proper treatment.

“Our research show that when people go to the emergency room or to their primary care doctor and the diagnosis is cellulitis, probably about a third of those cases are incorrect,” says Dr. Mostaghimi. “If you have cellulitis that doesn’t respond to treatment, or that keeps coming back in a surprising way, it may be time to check in and say, ‘Hey, maybe I don’t have this maybe we should broaden the list of things that this could be.'”

How Long Does It Take Cellulitis To Heal

With antibiotic treatment, cellulitis heals within seven to 10 days, according to Healthline. Symptoms, such as warmth, redness and swelling may be alleviated within three days of treatment, notes to UpToDate. Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection.

Physicians may prescribe a one- to two-week course of antibiotics for cellulitis, according to UpToDate. Individuals with cellulitis can hasten healing and reduce swelling by keeping the infected area elevated above heart level. The infected area also should be kept clean and dry.

If symptoms worsen or persist longer than three days, the patient should contact a physician immediately, states Healthline. Cellulitis can spread to other areas of the body and cause complications such as blood infection and tissue death.

Recommended Reading: How To Combat Antibiotic Resistance

Research On Preventive Treatment With Penicillin

Various groups of researchers have looked into the possible advantages and disadvantages of preventive treatment with in people who keep getting erysipelas or cellulitis infections. The researchers found five studies with a total of about 500 patients.

Two of the five studies were particularly conclusive because quite a lot of people took part in them and they were designed and carried out well. Both of the studies also kept in touch with the participants for three years to see whether the skin infection returned. This meant that they were able to provide information about how well the worked in the long term.

In one study, the participants had cellulitis for the first time. They were randomly assigned to two groups. One group was given penicillin for six months, and the other was given a placebo for six months. The dose of penicillin taken was 500 mg per day , which is quite a small dose. In the other study, participants had to have had cellulitis at least twice already. The treatment was the same as in the first study, but lasted twelve months instead.

How Long Does It Take For Cellulitis To Heal With Antibiotics

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Things You Can Do Yourself

As well as taking antibiotics for cellulitis, you can help speed up your recovery by:

  • taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain
  • raising the affected body part on a pillow or chair when you’re sitting or lying down, to reduce swelling
  • regularly moving the joint near the affected body part, such as your wrist or ankle, to stop it getting stiff
  • drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • not wearing compression stockings until you’re better

You can reduce the chances of getting cellulitis again by:

  • keeping skin clean and well moisturised
  • cleaning any cuts or wounds and using antiseptic cream
  • preventing cuts and scrapes by wearing appropriate clothing and footwear
  • wearing gloves if working outside

What If Cellulitis Is Still Red After Taking Antibiotics

Signs and symptoms of cellulitis should begin to improve 1 to 3 days after you begin taking antibiotics. However, it may take more than 2 weeks for them to clear entirely.

If you see the red area of infection growing or notice streaks from the inflamed spot after you start antibiotics, this may be a sign the infection is spreading. You should see a doctor right away. A stronger course of treatment may be needed to eliminate the infection.

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First Line Of Treatment: Oral Antibiotics

Most of the time cellulitis can be treated with oral antibiotics, says Kaminska. Because Staphylococcus and Streptococcus are the most common bacteria behind cellulitis infections, the antibiotics prescribed to treat cellulitis will usually be drugs that target them.

These are Gram-positive bacteria, meaning that they have a thick cell wall, Kaminska says. Therefore, we typically prescribe medication that treats Gram-positive bacteria the most common being antibiotics in the penicillin family, such as penicillin and ampicillin.

But, she adds, the decision may be made to prescribe antibiotics that cover both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, such as clindamycin or doxycycline. Other antibiotics that may be prescribed include amoxicillin, dicloxacillin, and cephalexin.

Once you begin a course of antibiotics, it should not take long for your symptoms to improve. Typically you will see a response within the first three days, says Kaminska. You should notice that the redness, swelling, and tenderness are starting to go down. You should continue taking the antibiotics until you have taken all of the pills prescribed.

It will usually take 7 to 10 days for cellulitis to go away, she says. But if you have a weakened immune system, you may be on antibiotics for a longer period.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Cellulitis

Healing Stages Of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by the Strep or the Staph bacteria. The bacteria infiltrate the body through abrasions, cuts, or open wounds. Once the bacteria infiltrate the body they start to grow and cause inflammation, redness, and swelling at the affected site. This result in development of an infection which is what is termed as cellulitis.

Cellulitis can develop in any area of the body but is mostly seen in the legs, arms, eyes, and breasts. In majority of the cases cellulitis is rather mild in nature and favorably responds to administration of antibiotics. If the infection develops in infants less than 3 years of age then the infant may need to be hospitalized for administration of intravenous antibiotics and close monitoring until the infection resolves. It normally takes about a week to recover from a bout of cellulitis but in individuals who are immunocompromised it may take a bit longer to get rid of Cellulitis.

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How Is Cellulitis Diagnosed

There isnt a specific medical test to diagnose cellulitis beyond a physical examination by your doctor, followed by lab tests to determine what type of bacteria may be causing the infection.

During the physical exam your doctor will note any redness, warmth, or swelling of the skin. The affected area will be checked for any buildup of pus or swollen glands .

Your doctor may outline the edges of the reddened area with a pen and then check it a few days later to see if the redness has spread beyond the original borders.

If the suspected cellulitis is in your legs or feet, the doctor may look between your toes to see if there are breaks in the skin where the bacteria may be entering the body.

Lab tests that are likely to be ordered to determine if there is a bacterial infection include:

  • A blood culture
  • Complete blood count panel
  • A culture of any fluid or discharge from the affected area

If your infection is suspected to be a condition other than cellulitis, a biopsy or other types of tests may be done.

How Is Cellulitis Treated

Your healthcare provider will typically prescribe antibiotics taken by mouth to treat your cellulitis. Oral antibiotics may include dicloxacillin or cephalexin.

Severe cases of cellulitis may not respond to oral antibiotics. You may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics your healthcare provider will use a small needle and tube to deliver the antibiotics directly into a vein.

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What Is The Outcome For Someone Who Gets Cellulitis

With treatment, you should quickly start to see less redness, swelling, pain, and warmth.

If you fail to notice improvement after 24 48 hours, let your doctor know.

While cellulitis will clear with treatment, anyone who has had it has a higher risk of getting cellulitis again.

You can find out what helps to prevent this at Cellulitis: How to prevent it from returning.

ImagesGetty Images

ReferencesHabif TP, Campbell, JL, et al. Cellulitis. In: Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier, China, 2006: Card#47.

Hapern AV and Heymann WR. Bacterial diseases. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1084.

Raff AB, Kroshinsky D. Cellulitis: A review. JAMA. 2016 316:325-337.

Stevens DL, Bisno AL, et al. Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Skin and Soft Tissue Infections: 2014 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 59:e10-52.

Strazzula L, Cotliar J, et al. Inpatient dermatology consultation aids diagnosis of cellulitis among hospitalized patients: A multi-institutional analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 73:70-5.

Weng, QY, Raff AB, et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2016 Nov 2. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.3816. .

Urgent Advice: Ask For An Urgent Gp Appointment If:

Cellulitis â The Urgency Room â an educational care video
  • your face or the area around your eye is affected
  • your symptoms are rapidly getting worse
  • you have a weakened immune system for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes
  • a young child or elderly person has possible cellulitis

Early treatment with antibiotics can stop the infection from becoming more serious.

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Cellulitis Symptoms And Signs

Cellulitis usually begins as a small area of pain and redness on the skin. This area spreads to surrounding tissues, resulting in the typical signs of inflammation — redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. A person with cellulitis can also develop fever and/or swollen lymph nodes in the area of the infection.

The majority of cellulitis infections are caused by infection with either strep or staph bacteria.

The most common bacteria that cause cellulitis are beta-hemolytic streptococci . A form of rather superficial cellulitis caused by strep is called erysipelas and is characterized by spreading hot, bright red circumscribed area on the skin with a sharp, raised border. Erysipelas is more common in young children. The so-called “flesh-eating bacteria” are, in fact, also a strain of strep bacteria that can sometimes rapidly destroy deeper tissues underneath the skin. Fasciitis is the term used to refer to inflammation of the very deep lining tissues called fascia. The streptococcal infection known as flesh-eating bacterial infection is an example of fasciitis. Cellulitis, when untreated, may rarely spread to the deeper tissues and cause serious fasciitis.

Cellulitis is not contagious because it is a soft tissue infection of the skin’s deeper layers , and the skin’s top layer provides a cover over the infection. In this regard, cellulitis is different from impetigo, in which there is a very superficial skin infection that can be contagious.

How To Tell If Cellulitis Is Healing

Cellulitis is a common skin infection that occurs when bacteria get under the skin through a wound and invade the soft tissue. Cellulitis can occur almost anywhere on the body although most infections involve the legs. Typically, cellulitis infections clear up completely after seven to 10 days with antibiotic treatment. In rare cases, you may have to be hospitalized if the infection gets worse or you have other medical problems. There are several ways to tell if cellulitis is healing.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Monitor your early symptoms closely once you start your antibiotic treatment. The level of discomfort that you feel is an indication of how well your treatment is working. Provided that you were diagnosed early, you should start to recover within two or three days after you start taking antibiotics. If you had any fever, chills, swelling, nausea and vomiting initially, those symptoms should be greatly improved after a few days on antibiotics.

Pay close attention to the infected area and make sure the appearance of the skin is improving. If the infected area was painful, tender, or hot when you started your antibiotic treatment, after two or three days of treatment, you should have less discomfort. Much of the soreness should have gone away, and the appearance of the infected area should have improved. The red area should be getting smaller and the skin should not feel hard to the touch.


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Is There Anything Else Cellulitis Could Be

  • A lot of conditions look like cellulitis but aren’t: it’s important the diagnosis of cellulitis is correct, otherwise you’d be taking antibiotics for no reason.
  • Insect bites often give a red circle of skin around where the bite was: a lot of people think it is cellulitis and give antibiotics. It’s actually very rare for insect bites to become infected. The redness pain around an insect bite is just a normal histamine reaction: it will go away in a few days and you can take antihistamines to help. The key difference between insect bites and cellulitis is that insect bites are itchy, but cellulitis isn’t . Also, the redness around an insect bite comes on quickly – often overnight. Cellulitis takes a few days to spread.
  • A lot of elderly people have varicose eczema: this causes red legs and can make a lot of people think they have cellulitis. The key difference is, varicose eczema usually affects both legs, whereas cellulitis affects only one at a time. Varicose eczema also isn’t painful, whereas cellulitis is. And elderly people have usually had varicose eczema for years cellulitis comes on over a few days and gets worse and worse.

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