Cellulitis can be mild to severe. The symptoms usually evolve slowly over hours to days. The basic process is, bacteria gets under the skin through a wound, animal bite, or abscessed tooth. The area then becomes swollen, red, and hot. The most common area of involvement is the leg.


  • In the area of a previous wound or tooth abscess, a redness becomes apparent and slowly enlarges. A fungal infection such as athlete’s foot can also be a cause.
  • Over the course of one to two days, the area becomes more swollen, hot, and the redness spreads.
  • There is usually increased pain and discomfort in the area.
  • If in the face, you will notice a definite swelling, and redness on one side compared to the other.
  • It affects one side of the body. If both sides are involved, other things should be excluded such as a vein blockage, drug or plant reaction, or generalized swelling due to a heart or other condition.


  • Usually very apparent.
  • Redness and swelling in the involved area that progresses and is usually hot and painful.
  • Most always on one side of the body.
  • Occasionally, there can be a low-grade temperature.


  • As this condition is caused by bacteria, antibiotic therapy is necessary.
  • In the field, start a general antibiotic such as dicloxacillin 250mg four times a day or cephalexin 500mg four times a day. These require 5-14 days of treatment depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Symptoms and pain usually start to resolve in 2-3 days.
  • If the infection worsens, seek the nearest medical facility.
  • Complications are primarily a wasting away of tissue in the area of involvement.

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