Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can affect any area of the body. It often begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch. Then bacteria invade and spread, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
Conditions that create breaks in the skin and allow bacteria to enter, such as eczema and severe acne, will put a child at risk for cellulitis. Chickenpox, scratched insect bites, animal bites, and puncture wounds are other causes.
Cellulitis also can form in areas of intact skin, especially in people who have diabetes or who are taking medicines that suppress the immune system.
Cellulitis requires particularly close monitoring when it infects the eyelid and tissues surrounding the eye. It can be the result of minor trauma to the area around the eye (such as an insect bite or a scratch) or might be an extension of another infection, such as sinusitis. This kind of cellulitis is treated with antibiotics and close follow-up. If untreated, it can progress to a more serious infection that affects vision.
Cellulitis, which is not contagious, usually begins as a small, inflamed area of pain, swelling, warmth, and redness on the skin. As this red area begins to spread, the child may begin to feel sick and develop a fever, sometimes with chills and sweats. Swollen lymph nodes (commonly called swollen glands) are sometimes found near the area of infected skin.
You can prevent cellulitis by protecting your child's skin from cuts, bruises, and scrapes. This may not be easy, especially with active kids who love to explore or play sports. Protective equipment worn to prevent other injuries also can protect skin, such as elbow and knee pads for skating, a helmet for bike riding, shin guards for soccer, long pants and long-sleeved shirts for hiking in the woods, sandals (not bare feet) on the beach, and seatbelts while riding in a motor vehicle.
If your child does get a scrape, wash the wound well with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with an adhesive bandage or gauze. Contact your doctor if your child has a large cut, deep puncture wound, or bite (animal or human).
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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