Advice intended for parents/carers taking their child home after seeing a hospital based healthcare professional.

Cellulitis is an infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can occur at any age.


  • A spreading area of redness of the skin, which is usually warm to touch
  • Pain or discomfort at the site
  • Swelling of the affected area may occur
  • Fever may be present


Cellulitis often follows injury to the skin, which may be minor, such as a scratch or insect bite. It can also occur following surgery. It occurs more commonly in children with an underlying skin condition (such as eczema) or in children with diabetes.

When to seek further help:

If your child has any of the following:

  • Becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Has blue lips
  • Severe breathing difficulty - too breathless to talk / eat or drink
  • Has a fit / seizure
  • Becomes extremely agitated, confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake

You need urgent help

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • The painful, red area is continuing to significantly enlarge or is getting more painful despite your child being on antibiotics
  • Is finding it hard to breathe
  • Seems dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy or no urine passed for 12 hours)
  • Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or picking up) – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • Has extreme shivering or complains of muscle pain
  • Swelling of a limb or joint
  • Too painful for your child to stand
  • Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C or above for more than 5 days
  • Is getting worse or if you are worried

You need to contact the discharging ward urgently


  • If none of the above features are present

Self Care

Continue providing your child’s care at home using the advice below. If you are still concerned about your child, speak to your health visitorlocal pharmacist or call NHS 111– dial 111. Keep monitoring your child for red and amber features and seek help if they develop


Cellulitis usually responds well to antibiotics. Treatment with intravenous antibiotics (given into a vein) is usually only needed for more severe cases or those that have not responded to antibiotics given by mouth.

Some children who need intravenous antibiotics are admitted to hospital initially whilst others can be looked after at home. These children would come into hospital once a day for someone to look at them and for their antibiotics to be given.

The decision on when to change from intravenous to oral antibiotics (tablets or liquid) will be made by the medical team caring for your child. This will depends on how quickly your child responds to treatment (improvement in fever, pain and sometimes their blood tests) and whether your child has other health conditions. Antibiotics are usually given for a total of 7 days. You can give regular pain relief (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) until any discomfort his improved.

What else can you do to help?

To help ease discomfort, if your child has cellulitis of the arm or leg, you can raise the affected limb on some pillows to reduce swelling. You can give regular pain relief (Paracetamol or Ibuprofen) until the pain has improved. Please note that Ibuprofen should not be used if your child has chicken pox.


Most children recover without any complications. However, if you are concerned that your child's condition is getting worse (See table above), you should contact your discharging ward.

Call 999 for an ambulance if you have serious concerns for your child.

Prevention of future episodes

Not all cases of cellulitis can be prevented, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of it developing. Cuts, grazes or bites should be cleaned immediately. Keep the wound covered with a clean plaster or dressing. This will create a barrier against bacteria entering the skin.

Also remember good hand hygiene. Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and always wash your hands when treating a wound or skin condition.

This guidance is written by healthcare professionals from across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight

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