Cellulitis is a skin infection that is treated with antibiotics

It can be serious if it is not treated quickly. It may first appear as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to touch. The redness and swelling often spread rapidly.

You can get cellulitis on any part of your body, but it usually affects:

  • Hands – causing swollen fingers
  • Legs – usually the lower legs
  • Feet – sometimes near toes if you have athlete's foot

How do you get cellulitis infection?

You have an increased risk of developing cellulitis if you have an injury, such as a cut, fracture, burn or scrape. It is not usually spread from person to person (it is not contagious). Cellulitis is an infection of the deeper layers of the skin most commonly caused by bacteria (staphylococcus or streptococcus ) that normally live on the skin's surface.

Can a person die with cellulitis and what is cellulite?

Cellulitis and cellulite are two very different things. One will make you cringe when you put on a bathing suit and the other can kill you. If left untreated, the skin infection can cause extensive tissue damage and tissue death (gangrene). The infection can also spread to the blood, bones, lymph system, heart, or nervous system. These infections can lead to amputation, shock, or even death.

How is Cellulitis diagnosed?

Blood tests, a complete blood count (CBC) may be used to check for an elevated white blood cell count, which indicates infection. Your GP will check the area of the rash to see if your symptoms are consistent with cellulitis. He or she may also examine your lymph nodes to check for signs of infection and test any fluid that has accumulated at the site of the rash.


For mild cellulitis affecting a small area of skin, your GP will prescribe antibiotic tablets. Most people make a full recovery after 7 to 10 days.

If your cellulitis is severe, your GP might refer you to hospital for treatment.

As well as taking antibiotics, you can help speed up your recovery by:

- raising the affected body part on a pillow or chair when you're sitting or lying down to reduce swelling

- regularly moving the joint near the affected body part, such as your wrist or ankle, to stop it getting stiff

- drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration

- not wearing compression stockings until you're better

You can reduce the chances of getting cellulitis again by:

- keeping skin clean and well moisturised

- cleaning any cuts or wounds, or using antiseptic cream

- preventing cuts and scrapes by wearing appropriate clothing and footwear

- wearing gloves if working outside

How can osteopathy help?

As an osteopath, I can offer a supplementary approach to the allopathic treatment. Once the condition has been diagnosed and the infection treated with prescribed antibiotics, the osteopathic manipulative treatment can help speed up your recovery. Treating your musculoskeletal system can improve local and systemic fluid management and tissue mobility, as well as influence, via the nervous system, on your pain, proprioception and autonomic elements.

One of the four primary principles of osteopathy states that the body has a propensity for self- healing and is capable of homeostasis and health maintenance. While medications such as antibiotics for bacterial infection remain the mainstay of treatment, osteopathy offers a supplementary approach to treatment.


Hibler J, Perkins J, Eland D, Sammons D. (2014) "Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine for Inflammatory Skin Diseases". Journal American Osteopath Coll Dermatology. Accessed on 16 May 2018.

NHS (2018) "Cellulitis". Online, accessed on 16 May 2018.

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