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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury


Pokenga kiri

Picture of leg with cellulitisCellulitis is an infection of the skin and the tissue just under the skin. It's often caused by a small break in the skin where bacteria (germs) can get in.

Cellulitis can affect any area of skin, but the leg is the most common place.

Cellulitis is most common in children and older people but can affect people of all ages. Diabetes and other health conditions or treatments that reduce your immunity can make you more likely to get cellulitis.

It usually starts with a small patch of redness and swelling, which can be painful and warm to touch. This can spread to cover a bigger area.

If the infection spreads, you may get other symptoms such as nausea, fever or generally feeling unwell.


Cellulitis can lead to a life-threatening infection of the blood. If you have a patch of skin that is red, warm and getting bigger, see your general practice team or after-hours healthcare service as soon as possible, especially if you have diabetes or any condition that reduces your immunity.

Treating cellulitis

Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics. Usually, your GP will ask you to take antibiotic tablets. If the infection is more serious, you may need antibiotics given through a vein (IV antibiotics). Your GP may arrange for you to have IV antibiotics without needing to go to hospital.

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood glucose (sugar) down is important.

Contact your GP again if your cellulitis is getting worse, you are feeling more unwell or there is no improvement after two days on antibiotics.

Self-care with cellulitis

Preventing cellulitis

You can reduce the chances of getting cellulitis again by:

If you've had cellulitis more than once, you might be prescribed low-dose long-term antibiotics to stop infections coming back.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2022.


See also:

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

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Review key: HICEL-21918