Cellulitis (sel-yu-LY-tis) is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues.
Cellulitis happens when bacteria enter the body through an area of broken skin, like a cut, scratch, or bite. It often affects the face and lower leg, but can develop on any area of the body.
Cellulitis begins as a small red area of inflamed skin that is painful and warm to the touch. As the infection spreads, the red area grows and often fever, chills, and muscle aches develop.
It's important to see a doctor as soon as cellulitis symptoms are recognized, especially in the case of bites. Cellulitis can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but if untreated could become life threatening. If the infection is spreading quickly and is accompanied by a fever, go to the emergency room immediately.
Protecting skin from cuts, bruises, and scrapes can help prevent cellulitis. When wounds do occur, wash the affected site well with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the injured area with an adhesive bandage.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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