Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that if goes untreated, can lead to serious health issues. A bacterial skin infection is when bacteria enters the body (usually through hair follicles or tears/cuts in the skin). A common cause for these infections such as cellulitis is following surgery (due to an open wound). Having some general knowledge on what to look for when it comes to cellulitis may help prevent getting it, or allow you to get early intervention so that it does not become serious.
Risk factors for bacterial infections
Below are some risk factors that increase the possibility of getting bacterial infections such as cellulitis. If you have some of the risk factors it does not mean that you will get a skin infection but it does put you at a higher risk. So if that is the case you should make sure to take extra precautions when it comes to good wound management (see below) and performing weekly skin checks.
Signs/Symptoms of Cellulitis
emergent care may be necessary if any of the below symptoms are present:
Signs and symptoms of cellulitis can often appear like other skin infections so it is always important to reach out to your Doctor and or surgeon. Especially these days when pictures can be easily sent and assessed it is better to be safe than sorry.
Treatment of Cellulitis
The current treatment for cellulitis is IV antibiotics. So the sooner it can be assessed by a medical professional and diagnosed the quicker they can get medications on board. Other things that may help in the treatment of cellulitis include:
How to Prevent Cellulitis
While there is no vaccine or true prevention of cellulitis there are measures that you can take to significantly decrease the risk of the infection. The first and most important is to wash your hands often with soap and or alcohol based hand rub, especially before dealing with any open cuts on the body. Clean all minor cuts and injuries that break the skin with soap and water. Clean and cover all open wounds with clean, and dry bandages until they are fully healed. If you have an open wound or active infection, avoid submerging the area in any bodies of water (pool, river, hot tub, etc.)
If you recently had surgery make sure to follow good wound care practice in order to limit the risk of infection (more info on good wound care can be found here.
If you have any questions or concerns it is always best to contact your physician or surgeon immediately so they can decide the next steps to take.
David Simmons, PT, DPT
So, your surgery is done and now is the time to focus on rehab and getting back to normal strength and range of motion. Following some surgeries, rehab progress can be slowed by surgical incision site infection (SISI). Prior to surgery or post-surgery, it is important to have some knowledge on exactly what surgical site infection is and some signs/symptoms of it so that you can catch it early. It is important to know that if a surgical site does become infected, do not panic, it will be ok and can be treated with medications. That being said, the sooner you let your Doctor know the better.
Bob Cranny, PT