Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cellulitis

2-minute read

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a spreading inflammation of the skin and the tissues directly beneath it. It's usually caused by a bacterial infection and can become serious if not treated with antibiotics.

If you think you or someone in your care has cellulitis, it's important to get medical attention soon as possible.

The main signs of cellulitis are skin that is red, painful, swollen, tender and warm to touch. People with severe cellulitis can get fever, chills, sweating and nausea, and might feel generally unwell.

Cellulitis often affects the lower leg, but can occur on any part of the body including the face. The infection may occur when bacteria enter the skin through an ulcer, cut or a scratch or an insect bite. However it can occur without any visible damage to the skin.

Sometimes bacteria from cellulitis spreads into the blood stream, which is called sepsis and this is a medical emergency.

People with cellulitis can quickly become very unwell and a small number of people may develop serious complications.

Illustration showing cellulitis.
Signs of cellulitis include red, painful, and swollen skin that is warm to touch. It can affect any part of the body.

Antibiotics are the main treatment, usually orally at home. Some people need treatment in hospital. Rest and elevation (raising) of the limb are also very important. In some cases the affected limb may need compression.

Follow the links below to find trusted information about cellulitis.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cellulitis - Better Health Channel

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin that occurs most commonly on the lower legs and in areas where the skin is damaged or inflamed.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cellulitis in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Cellulitis is a skin infection that can start from a tiny scratch. If your child has cellulitis symptoms, he should see a GP because he needs antibiotics.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Dissecting cellulitis of the scalp

Dissecting cellulitis of the scalp is a rare condition in which pus-filled lumps develop on the scalp, resulting in scarring and permanent hair loss over the area affected.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib) disease fact sheet - Fact sheets

Infection with Hib bacteria can lead to serious illness including meningitis and epiglottitis. With the introduction of Hib vaccine these conditions are now rare. Urgent treatment is necessary as Hib disease can be life threatening.​

Read more on NSW Health website

Stye - myDr.com.au

A stye (sty) is an infection of a follicle or gland at the base of an eyelash, caused by bacteria, usually Staphylococcus. It happens when the follicle becomes clogged with oil or dirt.

Read more on myDr website

Boils - myDr.com.au

Boils (furuncles) are inflamed, pus-filled areas under the skin that look like oversized pimples. Boils can be treated with simple self-help measures but sometimes need to be drained and treated with antibiotics.

Read more on myDr website

Bacterial skin and soft tissue infections | Issue 5 | Volume 39 | Australian Prescriber

Knowing when antibiotics are needed, and when to consider hospital referral are important in appropriate management of skin infections.

Read more on Australian Prescriber website

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the community: Information for the public - Fact sheets

Community acquired MRSA (CaMRSA) can cause skin and other more serious infections. It can spread from person to person via direct contact, hands, towels and personal grooming items.

Read more on NSW Health website

Impetigo - myDr.com.au

Impetigo - sometimes called school sores - is a very contagious skin infection. It is most common in children and infants and causes sores, especially on the face.

Read more on myDr website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Impetigo

Impetigo is an infection of the skin that can be passed from person to person. It can affect skin that is intact (known as primary impetigo) or skin that is already compromised with cuts, abrasions, insect bites or other skin conditions such as eczema.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo