Signs of a Bacterial Skin Infection

Proper handwashing can prevent bad bacteria from multiplying on your skin and causing infections.
Proper handwashing can prevent bad bacteria from multiplying on your skin and causing infections. (Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Bacterial skin infections can be potentially dangerous if left untreated. Therefore, early detection is key. Knowing the signs and symptoms of different bacterial skin infections will help you detect an issue before it becomes a serious problem. We all have bacteria on our skin at any given time. Some bacteria is good and some bad. Problems occur when bad bacteria multiply out of control or release harmful toxins. Bacterial skin infections are caused by the growth of microorganisms that damage the skin. Most skin infections enter through wounds or scratches on the skin surface.


Cellulitis can cover a large area of skin and normally looks red, swollen and is painful to the touch. At the beginning of infection many people experience fatigue, fever, chills, warmth over the affected area, stretched skin and excessive sweating. Cellulitis usually affects children on the head and neck. Cellulitis for adults usually appears on the legs and arms.


Impetigo is a skin infection caused by a staphylococci infection. It is associated with pus-filled blisters, which can range from pea size to large rings. Impetigo appears on the legs, arms, hands, buttocks and face. Impetigo falls into two main categories, bullous and non-bullous. Bullous usually occur in infants and young children. Blisters begin clear and then become cloudy. After treatment, these will heal without scarring.

Non-bullous symptoms are thick, yellow lesions often accompanied with pain. These wounds usually heal without any scarring.

Erysipelas and Erythrasma

Erysipelas is a skin infection caused by hemolytic streptococci. It usually occurs on the legs, arms, face or where there is an opening in the skin. Symptoms to look for are a shiny, raised and red rash, small blisters and enlarged and tender lymph nodes.

Erythrasma is a skin infection of the top layers of skin, more prevalent in the tropics. It is usually found where skin comes into contact with other skin, such as in the groin area or under the breasts. It is also usually found in tropical regions of the world. The rash is made up of odd-shaped pink patches that turn into brown scales.


Paronychia is a bacterial skin infection that forms around a fingernail or toenail. These infections usually occur where there was a hangnail, some type of persistent irritation or where there was a break in the skin from a poorly done manicure. Look for painful, pus-filled abscesses.

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