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Which are the Most Common Antibiotics for Cellulitis?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cellulitis is a skin disease caused by bacterial infection, and it can be treated with several different antibiotics. These include amoxicillin, amoxicillin clavulanate, clindamycin, and penicillin. Different generations of cephalosporins are also commonly used to treat cellulitis. Medical professionals usually choose a medication depending on what specific bacteria is causing the infection.

Bacteria can enter the skin whenever a person suffers a cut or scrape. Signs of a cellulitis infection include redness, swelling, pain, and warmth in the affected skin. Swollen lymph nodes, muscle pains, and fever are also usually present. A diagnosis is often based on these symptoms, the pateint's medical history, a physical examination, and on the results of the diagnostic tests performed on such patients. Patients are then prescribed antibiotics for cellulitis.

The antibiotics prescribed for cellulitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Group A Streptococcus are clindamycin and cephalexin. These are usually given for mild infections that are often treated at home. Patients are generally advised to take the prescription for 10 to 14 days and to follow up with a medical professional to make sure that the bacteria are successfully treated. In severe cases, where the organisms involved are found to be resistant to methicillin, the same medications are frequently given but with the addition of a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole.

Depending also on how the infection was transmitted, other antibiotics may also be used. For dog bites where a person may be infected with Pasteurella canis, Streptococcus pyogenes, or Staphylococcus aureus, the medications commonly given are amoxicillin clavulanate, clindamycin with trimethoprim, or sulfamethoxazole. The same medications may also be given for human bites and cat bites. In severe infections caused by dog bites, cat bites, and human bites, third-generation cephalosporin like ceftriaxone, and other stronger antibiotics are frequently given.

Some patients who develop severe or complicated infections may also need to be admitted to the hospital for proper treatment and monitoring. For these patients, the cellulitis is often treated with antibiotics given intravenously. Symptoms of complicated cellulitis include rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, altered thinking, and fever.

Other factors that increase the risk of cellulitis include surgical wounds, insect bites, diabetic ulcers, and cracks or peeling in the skin. The use of some medications, including those that suppress the immune system, can also predispose patients to this condition. If cellulitis is suspected, a patient should go to a medical professional for evaluation in order to be given antibiotics and prevent further complications.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002746 — On Feb 06, 2020

Like many in the fall and winter, I was prone to cracks in the fingers too and seriously this Okeeffes stuff they keep advertising for cracked skin really helped a great deal I just wish I found it sooner because those cracks can not only be painful but you can get infections too.

By bagley79 — On Jun 02, 2012

I know how tough it can be to treat diabetic ulcers. Diabetes runs in my family and since I was diagnosed with this, I have had cellulitis as a result of these ulcers.

Taking an antibiotic is always one of the first things my doctor prescribes for a bacterial infection like cellulitis. It eventually seems to help, but it sure seems to take a long time.

I also have to be very careful about any kind of crack I get in my skin. This is harder in the winter when my skin gets dry and cracked. As simple as it may sound, making sure I keep lotion on my skin is one way I can prevent getting cellulitis.

By andee — On Jun 01, 2012

I have been prescribed different antibiotics for infection, but recently was given amoxicillin for a bad case of athlete's foot.

Until I got this infection I didn't realize how serious and irritating something like athlete's foot could be. I thought it could easily be treated with some kind of over the counter cream.

Since then I have learned that a fungal infection can often lead to cellulitis. My doctor also told me that once you have it, your chances of getting it again are higher.

If this ever does happen again, at least I will know what to look for and how to get the best treatment.

By myharley — On Jun 01, 2012

@honeybees - You are right when you say it is important to get treatment right away. I think this is crucial whether you have diabetes or not.

When I had treatment for cellulitis from an insect bite, I almost waited too long. The area where I was bitten was warm and red, and I kept thinking it was get better on its own.

When I started running a fever alternating with chills, I knew the infection had probably spread throughout my body. My doctor said if I had waited much longer I may have needed to be hospitalized to get it cleared up.

Thankfully the oral antibiotics worked for me and I didn't need any further treatment. The next time if something like this happens, I will make sure to be seen right away.

By honeybees — On May 31, 2012

My mom has had diabetes for several years and gets leg cellulitis frequently. Because of her diabetes she has a weakened immune system, and will get cellulitis even if she doesn't have a break in her skin.

For her, one of the most important things is to get treatment right away, and that always includes taking some kind of antibiotic. Her sores and infections are often slower to clear up than someone who doesn't have diabetes.

If she starts on some kind of antibiotic right away, it is easier to keep the cellulitis controlled. If she waits too long and starts to see red streaks, then it becomes more of a serious situation.

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