What treatment is available to cure cellulitis?
Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will choose a specific antibiotic depending on the location of your cellulitis and the likely cause of your infection. Most cases of cellulitis improve quickly once antibiotics are given.
If you have mild cellulitis, you probably can be treated at home with antibiotics taken by mouth. However, you must keep in close contact with your doctor to be sure that the infection is improving as expected. At home, warm compresses, such as a warm, moist washcloth, and elevation of the infected area can help. If you have severe cellulitis, you may need to be treated in the hospital with antibiotics given intravenously (into a vein).
Most patients can be treated with oral antibiotics at home. However if there are signs of systemic illness or extensive cellulitis, treatment may require hospital admission for initial intravenous antibiotics. Treatment for uncomplicated cellulitis is usually for 10 to 14 days but antibiotics should be continued until all signs of infection have cleared (redness, pain and swelling) - sometimes for several months.
Oral antibiotics used commonly are penicillin, flucloxacillin, cefuroxime, or erythromycin. The usual intravenous antibiotics used are penicillin-based antibiotics (e.g. penicillin G or flucloxacillin) or cephalosporins (e.g. cefotaxime or cephazolin). In situations where a broader antibiotic cover is required, for example a diabetic patient with a foot ulcer complicated by cellulitis, amoxycillin and clavulanic acid may be used. Clindamycin and vancomycin are alternative antibiotics in patients with serious penicillin allergy.
In severe cases, antibiotics may be given intravenously for the first 24 to 72 hours, followed by oral antibiotics. Mild cases may only require oral antibiotics. In severe cases that progress rapidly or are associated with necrosis (tissue destruction), necrotizing cellulitis-fasciitis is considered. This requires urgent surgical exploration.