Diseases & Conditions
Cellulitis in Children
What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin. The infection usually involves the face, or the arms and legs. It may happen in normal skin, but it usually occurs after some type of trauma causes an opening in your child's skin. This opening can lead to an infection.
What is the cause of cellulitis?
Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or area of skin that is no longer intact. The most common bacterial causes of cellulitis include the following:
Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries that occur in water.
What are the symptoms of cellulitis?
The following are the most common symptoms of cellulitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Consult your child's doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms in your child:
A very large area of red, inflamed skin
If the area affected is causing your child to complain of numbness, tingling, or other changes in a hand, arm, leg, or foot
If the skin appears black
If the area that is red and swollen is around your child's eye(s) or behind his or her ear(s)
If your child has diabetes or has a weakened immune system and develops cellulitis
The symptoms of cellulitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
How is cellulitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. Blood and skin samples may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria that is present.
Treatment for cellulitis
Specific treatment for cellulitis will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disease
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Immediate treatment can help prevent the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:
Oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics
Cool, wet dressings on the infection site
If your child has an extremity (arm or leg) that is affected, his or her doctor may have you elevate the extremity and decrease the amount of activity
Based on the physical examination, your child's doctor may treat your child in the hospital depending on the severity of the cellulitis. In the hospital, your child may receive antibiotics and fluids through an intravenous (IV) catheter.
Are there any complications from cellulitis?
Complications can be reduced with prompt and accurate treatment by your child's doctor. The most common complications include the following:
Meningitis. An inflammation of the membrane of the brain and the spinal cord.
Septic (infectious) arthritis. An infection of a joint caused by bacteria.
Glomerulonephritis. An inflammation of the kidneys.