Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissue. It can occur anywhere on a baby's body, but is most common on the lower legs. Young children are also somewhat prone to developing the infection under an eyelid, a condition referred to as periorbital cellulitis. Cellulitis is serious, and left unchecked, potentially life-threatening, because the infection spreads rapidly. However, with prompt medical attention, cellulitis in a baby is easily treated.
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A baby gets cellulitis when an infectious bacteria, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus, gets beneath the skin through an open wound. Dry, cracked or peeling skin, skin injuries, bug bites and stings, scratches from a pet and chicken pox are all associated with development of cellulitis in babies. A sty, chalazion or injury to the eyelid or skin surrounding the eye can lead to periorbital cellulitis. Babies with weakened immune system are more susceptible to the infection.
An area of red, swollen skin that often feels warm is the classic symptom of cellulitis. Your baby may flinch if you touch the area, indicating that it's tender or painful. Cellulitis sometimes causes chills, sweating and a fever. Note that in an infant under three months of age, a temperature of 100.4 or higher should be treated as a medical emergency. Other symptoms of cellulitis in a baby include increased fussiness, drowsiness, a rash or sore that may or may not ooze pus, vomiting and skin seemingly pulled tight. In the eye, cellulitis may also trigger a runny nose or conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye.
Tended to early, a baby's cellulitis infection is easily treated with a course of oral antibiotics. Standard regimens last seven to 10 days. In some instances, a baby may require intravenous antibiotics. Expect a follow-up pediatrician's visit within a few days to check that the medication is working, and another visit after the course of antibiotics to make sure the infection is fully eliminated. A baby's symptoms typically begin clearing up within two or three days of starting on antibiotics. To help remedy symptoms at home, keep your baby as calm and quiet as possible during treatment, try to keep the affected area elevated and clean and protect any open wounds. Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap before and after handling your baby.
Actively remedy any patches of dry skin on your baby. Use a pediatrician-approved moisturizer and run a humidifier in the nursery if the air is dry. Keep baths short and to a minimum if dry skin is a problem. Treat rashes right away, and trim your baby's fingernails if scratching is an issue. Care for any wounds on your baby's skin by washing them with warm water and soap and applying a dab of topical antibiotic. Protect any open wounds with bandages. Monitor your baby's injuries closely for signs of infection, such as redness, inflammation, warmth and pus. Seek treatment for any possible infection immediately. If you have pets, keep them away from your baby.