Cellulitis cannot always be prevented, but the risk of developing cellulitis can be minimised by avoiding injury to the skin, maintaining good hygiene and by managing skin conditions like tinea and eczema.
A common cause of infection to the skin is via the fingernails. Handwashing is very important as well as keeping good care of your nails by trimming and cleaning them. Generally maintaining good hygiene such as daily showering and wearing clean clothes may help reduce the skin’s contact with bacteria.
If you have broken skin, initially use antiseptic and then keep the wound clean by washing daily with soap and water. Cover the wound with a gauze dressing or bandaid every day and watch for signs of infection.
People who are susceptible to cellulitis, for example people with diabetes or with poor circulation, should take care to protect themselves with appropriate footwear, gloves and long pants when gardening or bushwalking, when it's easy to get scratched or bitten. Look after your skin by regularly checking your feet for signs of injury, moisturising the skin and trimming fingernails and toenails regularly.
People with swelling of the arm or leg due to a condition such as lymphoedema sometimes develop cellulitis that keeps coming back. In these cases, the first step is to work with your doctor to find the cause of the swelling and prevent the cellulitis happening. The treatment of the cellulitis remains the same for any cause. In people who have cellulitis more than 2 or 3 times, taking antibiotics for long periods (even a year or 2) can help.
While cellulitis is not generally contagious, it's important to always wash your hands before and after touching the infected area. This will reduce the chance of spreading the infection further.
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Last reviewed: September 2020