Diagnosing and Treating Cellulitis Online
Cellulitis will initially appear as a swollen, red area of the skin that feels hot, tender and has the potential to spread rapidly. However, it usually is not spread from person to person. Cellulitis typically affects the skin on one’s lower legs, but it can occur anywhere on your body or face.
Cellulitis occurs when bacteria, most commonly streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter through a crack or break in your skin. Certain types of insect or spider bites can also transmit the bacteria and start the infection. Bacteria can also enter through areas of dermatitis or eczema – where the skin is dry, flaky or swollen.
If cellulitis is left untreated, it can rapidly turn-life threatening. The condition can affect the tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream. You should seek emergency care if you have a red, swollen, tender rash that is changing rapidly and a fever. If you have the same rash without the fever, you should see your online doctor or local PCP, preferably that day.
During a video consult on Amwell your doctor will ask you a series of targeted questions to determine if your symptoms point to cellulitis. Then your provider will proceed to determine the best treatment plan for you. Your provider may recommend in-person examination by a specialist if this is needed. Your treatment plan is based on the duration and severity of your symptoms and your medical history.
Our platform has an image upload feature that is extremely helpful for both providers and patients. With this feature, our physicians can get a precise, detailed look at your rash before the visit even begins. This feature is also very useful to see how your rash has progressed. If your rash has been present for a while and you have a picture from early on, it is helpful for our providers to see the comparison. If your outbreak is on your face, this feature is specifically useful for those that wear makeup – you can take a picture when you have a clean face, save it and upload before your visit! For best results we recommend pictures be taken in bright, natural light, close to the rash and from a few different angles. If you can give a size perspective, like laying a dime near the rash, this can be extremely helpful, as well.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will go over the risks and benefits of the various treatment plans. Treatment for cellulitis is different depending on the severity. However, a consistent skin care routine is imperative for successful treatment. This is sometimes difficult for adolescent patients, so follow up visits, especially in the beginning of treatment, will be important.
Options for treatment of dermatitis may include:
- Washing the wound daily with soap and water
- Applying a protective cream or ointment to the outbreak
- Covering the wound with a bandage
- A prescription for antibiotics or penicillin
Note: if you have signs of cellulitis, a fever and nausea or vomiting, please go to the emergency room immediately.