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Is Cellulitis Contagious? Here's What You Need to Know

Is Cellulitis Contagious? Here's What You Need to Know

What is cellulitis? Is cellulitis contagious? How is it treated? Read on to find out.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the inner layers of the skin and the tissues beneath it. Cellulitis can be caused by a lot of bacteria but it is often caused by a Streptococcus which accounts for two-thirds of cases and Staphylococcus which accounts the other third of cases.

Bacteria that are normally present on the surface of the skin can get into the deeper layers of the skin through cuts, open wounds, insect bites, and cracks.

Cellulitis can easily be treated with the right antibiotics. However, if not treated immediately, it can cause serious complications.

Is Cellulitis Contagious? Signs and Symptoms of Cellulitis

Cellulitis can infect almost any part of the body. When the bacteria gets into the skin, the infected area often becomes:

  • Swollen
  • Appears red
  • Painful
  • Tender to the touch
  • Warm to the touch

In severe cases, the person who has cellulitis might experience:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

In severe cases, a patient will have a rapid heart rate and low blood pressure. The patient will also develop fluid-filled blisters around the swollen area.

Is Cellulitis Contagious? Risk Factors

Is cellulitis contagious? Under usual circumstances, it is not.

Cellulitis can affect anyone of any age who have injuries in their skin, but there are risk factors that increase your chances of becoming infected. Cellulitis often occurs to people who are:

Diabetic

Wounds heal slower than normal, making the injury more susceptible to infections

Injection drug users

Piercing the skin with needles makes the person prone to the infection.

Previous episode of cellulitis

A person cannot develop immunity from cellulitis so reinfection is very possible.

Additional risks

  • Undergone Surgery
  • Insect and animal bites
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis, chickenpox, shingles, and scabies
  • Fungal infection such as athlete’s foot
  • A weak immune system such as HIV patients

Is Cellulitis Contagious?

Cellulitis cannot usually be transmitted from one person to another. Being in a room together with someone who has cellulitis does not increase your chance of getting the infection.

The bacteria causing cellulitis already lives on our body surfaces. It only starts causing problems when it enters deep into the layers of the skin and multiplies.

In uncommon cases such as cellulitis in the penis, cellulitis is spread as a sexually transmitted infection acquired through oral sex.

Skin Care Tips For Dry Skin

Where Does Cellulitis Occur?

In adults, cellulitis often occurs in the legs and feet. In children, it usually infects the face or neck.

Cellulitis may also occur in the:

  • Stomach (abdominal cellulitis)
  • Breast (breast cellulitis)
  • Around the hole of the anus (perianal cellulitis)
  • Around the eyes (periorbital cellulitis)

Treatment

Cellulitis is commonly treated with antibiotics. Administration and dosage depends on the location of the infection and the severity of the condition.

For oral medications, your doctor might prescribe taking antibiotics for 5 to 10 days but it can last for up to 14 days.

Treatment for cellulitis include:

  • Topical antibiotics
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Intravenous antibiotics
  • Injected antibiotics
  • Surgery (When there is a collection of pus that needs to drain out)
  • Pain medications

Cellulitis is usually treatable with antibiotics, but with the rise of drug resistance among bacteria, cellulitis is becoming more difficult to treat.

Community-Acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA can cause cellulitis that cannot be cured with the usual treatment. If signs and symptoms of cellulitis do not go away even after days of taking antibiotics, there is a chance that you are infected with MRSA.

Complications

If not treated immediately, cellulitis can spread from the skin and into the bloodstream, causing sepsis. Sepsis is the immune system’s extreme reaction to an infection. Sepsis causes the immune system to attack the tissues of the body which might eventually lead to organ failure.

Other complications include infection in the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), tissue death (gangrene), bone infection (osteomyelitis) and inflammation of the heart (endocarditis).

Prevention

If you have any skin injury, this increases your chance of getting infected with cellulitis. Is cellulitis contagious? Anyone can get cellulitis, though it is normally not contagious.

However, there are some things you can do to prevent yourself from catching this disease.

Treat wounds

Make sure to wash any scratches and cuts with running water. Apply topical treatments for wounds, bites, and other skin injuries. Covering the wound and replacing the bandage regularly also helps in preventing skin infections

Prevent injury

Be careful when using sharp objects. Wear protective gear if there is a big possibility of getting scratches, such as wearing long sleeves during a hike in the forest.

Moisturize skin

Cellulitis can also occur in cracks on the skin. Apply moisturisers or creams especially the soles of the feet to keep the skin from being dry.

Protect your feet

Use the appropriate footwear for whatever activity you are going to do, like wearing boots when walking in the rain to prevent the feet from getting wet.

Wash your hands

Washing your hands, especially the nails, can help in preventing cellulitis. The nails can easily transmit bacteria and we often scratch using our nails.

Maintain good health

Diabetes and a weak immune system can make us more susceptible to cellulitis. Exercising, staying hydrated and keeping a balanced diet are just some of the things you can do to stay healthy.

Key Takeaway

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that often causes swelling, pain, redness ,and a warm sensation in the infected area. Is cellulitis contagious? No, it generally isn’t. Cellulitis can occur on anyone with skin injuries. The disease is treatable with antibiotics. Treat wounds and stay healthy to avoid cellulitis.

Learn about Other Skin Diseases here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Cellulitis of the penis: a case report, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3030172/#:~:text=Cellulitis%20of%20the%20penis%20can,infection%2C%20especially%20in%20uncircumcised%20men.&text=It%20may%20be%20acquired%20through%20oral%20sex.&text=Streptococci%20are%20the%20most%20common,%CE%B2%2Dhaemolytic%20group%20B%20streptococci.

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis infection: Is it contagious?, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cellulitis/expert-answers/cellulitis/FAQ-20058458?p=1

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/c/cellulitis/

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cellulitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20370766

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis: All You Need to Know, https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/Cellulitis.html

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

What is Cellulitis, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/cellulitis

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/cellulitis/

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/cellulitis.html

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/cellulitis-a-to-z

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Cellulitis, https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/cellulitis

Accessed January 15, 2021

 

Staph Infections, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/staphylococcus.html

Accessed April 26, 2021

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Written by Hazel Caingcoy Updated Jun 16
Medically reviewed by Angeli Eloise E. Torres, MD, DPDS
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