Facial Cellulitis (Child)

Cellulitis is an infection of the deep layers of skin. A break in the skin, such as a cut or scratch, can let bacteria under the skin. It may also occur from an infected pimple (oil gland) or hair follicle. If the bacteria get to deep layers of the skin, it can cause serious infection. If not treated, cellulitis can get into the bloodstream and lymph nodes. The infection can then spread throughout the body. This causes serious illness. Cellulitis is more common in children with a weak immune system.

Facial cellulitis is an infection of facial tissues. It often occurs on the cheeks. It can also occur behind or around the eyes, on the neck, or behind the ears. Cellulitis causes the affected skin to become red, swollen, warm, and sore. The reddened areas have a visible border. An open sore may leak fluid (pus). Your child may have a fever, chills, and pain. A young child may be fussy, cry, and be hard to soothe.

Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics. Symptoms should get better 1 to 2 days after treatment is started. In some cases, symptoms can come back.

Home care

Your child's healthcare provider will give you an antibiotic to treat the infection. Make sure to give all of this medicine for the full number of days until it's gone. Keep giving the antibiotic even if your child is better. Your child's healthcare provider may also tell you to use medicine to reduce fever and swelling. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions for giving these medicines to your child. Don't give aspirin to a child under 18 years of age who has a fever. It may cause a serious illness called Reye syndrome.

General care

  • Have your child rest as much as possible until the infection starts to get better.

  • Hold infants upright. Have an older child sit upright as much as possible. This can help reduce swelling in the face.

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions to care for an open wound and change any dressings.

  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to reduce scratching.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after caring for your child. This is to prevent spreading the infection.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38.0ºC) or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider

  • Symptoms that don’t get better with treatment

  • Swollen lymph nodes on the neck or under the arm

  • Swelling around the eyes or behind the ears

  • Excessive drooling, neck swelling, or muffled voice

  • Redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Foul-smelling fluid coming from the affected area

  • Blackened skin

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