is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can
affect any area of the body. Not to be confused with
cellulite - the cottage-cheese-like, lumpy fat often found
on the hips, thighs, and buttocks, primarily of women -
cellulitis begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or
scratch, allowing bacteria to invade and spread, causing
inflammation, which includes pain, swelling, warmth, and
Disorders 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.
Chicken pox and scratched insect bites are also common
causes. Cellulitis may also start in areas of intact skin,
especially in people who have
diabetes or who are taking medicines that suppress the
Cellulitis can be caused by many
different types of bacteria, but the most common are Group A
Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus. In special
cases, other bacteria can cause cellulitis. Cellulitis after a
cat or dog bite may be caused by Pasteurella multocida
bacteria. Cellulitis due to Pseudomonas infection occurs
after nail-puncture wounds through sneakers. Other types of
bacteria from fish and farm animals can also cause cellulitis.
One specific type of cellulitis that can occur
in children and requires close monitoring is periorbital
cellulitis, an infection of 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 it may be the
extension of another site of infection, such as sinusitis.
Periorbital cellulitis is treated with antibiotics and close
follow-up. If untreated, it can progress to orbital cellulitis
(infection of the eye orbit, or socket), a much more severe
infection that results in a bulging eyeball, eye pain,
restricted eye movements, or visual disturbances. This is an
emergency that requires hospitalization and intravenous
Signs and Symptoms
Cellulitis begins as a small, inflamed area
of pain, swelling, warmth, and redness on a child's 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.
Cellulitis is not contagious.
You can prevent cellulitis by protecting your
child's skin from cuts, bruises, and scrapes. This may not
be easy, especially if you have an active child who loves to
explore or play sports. Protective equipment worn to prevent
other injuries during active play can also protect your
child's skin: elbow and knee pads while skating, a bike
helmet during bike riding, shin guards during soccer, long
pants and long-sleeved shirts while 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. Check with
your child's doctor if your child has a large cut, deep puncture
wound, or bite (animal or human).