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Emergency Department Discharge Instructions

Cellulitis

Emergency Care Discharge Instructions

Instruction summary

Cellulitis is an infection of the skin. It usually looks like a bright pink or red patch of skin, and it is very warm to the touch.

It is important for you to monitor the size of the cellulitis after you begin your antibiotics. To do this, you can take a regular pen and draw a line around the area of redness. Look at the wound every day to observe whether it is getting bigger (crossing beyond the pen line) or smaller. The size of the red area should decrease every day. Whilst it might become a little bigger on day one of the antibiotics, the redness should become smaller by day two.

Make sure that you take your antibiotics as directed, the whole course (don’t stop early).

Another way to help the cellulitis to heal is to keep it elevated as much as you can. For example, if the cellulitis is on your forearm, keep your arm up as much as you can (like you are the queen and about to wave at your subjects), so that gravity can drain the swelling away. If the cellulitis is on your leg, you can prop up your leg on a chair when you are sitting down, or put pillows under your leg when you are sleeping. This helps to remove the inflammation from around the area. Don’t use the limb excessively, to allow it to heal (i.e. no long walks if the cellulitis is on your leg).

Reasons to return to the ER
  1. The pink or red area is not smaller by day two after starting antibiotics.
  2. If you see a red streak going up your arm or leg after starting antibiotics.
  3. New fever (≥38.0 °C or 100.4 °F) or a fever that hasn’t resolved by day two of antibiotics