Diagnosis

Your health care provider will likely be able to diagnose cellulitis by looking at your skin. You might need to undergo a blood test or other tests to help rule out other conditions.

Treatment

Cellulitis treatment usually includes a prescription oral antibiotic. Within three days of starting an antibiotic, let your health care provider know whether the infection is responding to treatment. You'll need to take the antibiotic for the full course, usually 5 to 10 days, even if you start to feel better.

Symptoms typically disappear a few days after you start treatment. You may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins (intravenously) if:

  • Signs and symptoms don't respond to oral antibiotics
  • Signs and symptoms are extensive
  • You have a high fever

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Try these steps to help ease any pain and swelling:

  • Place a cool, damp cloth on the affected area as often as needed for your comfort.
  • Ask your health care provider to suggest a nonprescription pain medication.
  • Elevate the affected part of the body.
  • Ask your health care provider whether it might help to wear compression wraps or stockings.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider, who may refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist). If you have a severe infection, an emergency room doctor may examine you first. You may also be referred to an infectious disease specialist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

  • List your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • List key personal information, such as if you've had any recent surgeries, injuries, animal bites or insect bites.
  • List medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking and the dosage.
  • List questions to ask your health care provider.

Preparing a list of questions can help you make sure that you cover the points that are important to you. For cellulitis, some basic questions to ask your health care provider include:

  • How might I have gotten this infection?
  • What tests do I need? Do these tests require special preparation?
  • How is cellulitis treated?
  • How long before the treatment starts working?
  • What side effects are possible with this medication?
  • I have other medical conditions. How do I manage them together?
  • Are there alternatives to antibiotics?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • How can I prevent this type of infection in the future?
  • Do you have any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have.

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions such as:

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Do you remember injuries or insect bites to that area?
  • How severe is the pain?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • Are you allergic to or intolerant of any antibiotics?
  • Have you had this type of infection before?

What you can do in the meantime

You may need a prescription antibiotic to clear your infection. However, until you see your health care provider, you can wash the injured area with soap and water and place a cool, damp cloth over it.

May 06, 2022
  1. Cellulitis. AskMayoExpert. Mayo Clinic; 2021
  2. Kelly AP, et al., eds. Bacterial infections. In: Taylor and Kelly's Dermatology for Skin of Color. 2nd ed. McGraw Hill; 2016. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Dec. 24, 2021.
  3. Spelman D., et al. Cellulitis and skin abscess: Epidemiology, microbiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. https://www.uptodate.com/content/search. Accessed Dec. 24, 2021.
  4. Office of Patient Education. Cellulitis. Mayo Clinic; 2016.
  5. Cellulitis. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/bacterial-skin-infections/cellulitis. Accessed Dec. 24, 2021.