Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection caused by the bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus. Although common, if left untreated it is potentially fatal. It can occur on any area of the body, though it is most prevalent on the legs, specifically the ankles and shins. Treatment with antibiotics such as cepahlexin is necessary and the only way to destroy the bacteria; however, there are a number of lifestyle and home remedies that can be used to help prevent the infection from occurring, as well as alternative treatments to strengthen the immune system and maintain healthy skin.
The cause of cellulitis is bacteria that enter the blood stream through any type of breakage in the skin. In addition to the common bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus, cellulitis can be caused by the far more serious antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aureus strain. It typically enters through a cut or scrape in the leg, although other possible methods of entry include puncture wounds, spider bites and athlete's foot, among others. The primary symptoms of cellulitis include areas of red, swollen skin that may be warm or tender to the touch. This may be accompanied by a fever, malaise and aches and pains. As the condition progresses, the redness may begin to spread out, and little red dots may appear on the surface of the affected skin. Although not as common, blisters may also form.
Given the seriousness of cellulitis and the necessity of antibiotics to treat it, treatment that can be administered at home is heavily focused on prevention. As the bacteria that cause cellulitis enter through the skin, it is recommended to take special care of any wound in the skin. This involves cleaning it with soap and water, combined with a topical antibiotic such as Neosporin. Once clean, a bandage should be applied and changed regularly. If any signs of infection occur, see a doctor immediately. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to help alleviate pain and swelling. If you're a diabetic, the potential for skin infections is increased through poor circulation, and as such proper skin care is very important. This involves the regular use of moisturizer and promptly taking care of (cleaning, bandaging, etc.) any open wounds or sores.
Although antibiotics are necessary, a number of alternative treatments that can easily be followed at home can help strengthen the immune system and maintain healthy skin. They include, but are by no means limited to herbs such as echinacea, which contain many anti-inflammatory properties (it can be taken orally or applied as a topical cream to affected skin) and other topical anti-inflammatory treatments such as yarrow, goldenseal root and calendula flower. Vitamin and other supplements, which work by increasing the strength of the immune system, can be considered. These primarily include vitamins C, E and zinc, though other supplements such as quercetin (flavonoid) and bromelain are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, though no studies exist to support their efficacy within the context of cellulitis. Although their efficacy is up for date, homeopathic medications such as apis mellifica, cantharis, mercurius and suplhur, among others, can be used as a complementary treatment. Homeopathy, along with vitamin supplements and various herbs, should always be discussed with a physician before being used, as there always exists the potential for side effects or interactions with other drugs. A more complete list of possible alternative medicines can be found on the University of Maryland Medical Center website (see Resources).