Any area of skin can become infected with cellulitis (you say, sell-you-ly-tis) if the skin is broken, for example from a sore, insect bite, boil, rash, cut, burn or graze. Cellulitis can also infect the flesh under the skin if it is damaged or bruised or if there is poor circulation.


Bacteria (germs) can get into broken skin such as a cut or insect bite. It results in red, painful, swollen skin. The most common bacteria causing cellulitis are Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus.

Time off from kura or school

Stay away from kura or school for at least one day after starting treatment (such as antibiotics) or check with your doctor or public health nurse.


Signs of cellulitis:

  • The skin will look red and feel warm and painful to touch.
  • There may be pus or fluid leaking from the skin.
  • The skin may start swelling.
  • The red area keeps growing. Gently mark the edge of the infected red area with a pen to see if the red area grows bigger.
  • Red lines may appear in the skin spreading out from the centre of the infection.


Cellulitis is a serious infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

  • Go to the doctor if the infected area is painful or bigger than a 10 cent piece.
  • Go to the doctor immediately if cellulitis is near an eye as this can be very serious.
  • Make sure to take the antibiotics every day until they are finished, even if the infection seems to have cleared up. The antibiotics need to keep killing the infection in the body even if the skin has healed.
  • Check and clean the infected skin every day.
  • Wash the infected skin with warm water or in a salt bath. A teaspoon of salt, antiseptic or bleach could be added to a bath to help kill the bacteria.
  • Cover with a clean cloth or plaster if fluid or pus is coming out of the infection.
  • Keep the infected area raised, for example if the cellulitis is in the leg, lie down and put a pillow under the leg.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area.
  • Don’t share bath water, towels, sheets and clothes.
  • Make sure to rest, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and drink plenty of water.

Go back to the doctor if the red area gets bigger or deeper or you have a fever. Cellulitus can spread to other parts of the body or blood.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.


Cellulitis may happen when a skin injury is not properly treated. When dealing with cuts and abrasions:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Clean the wound with an antiseptic.
  • Cover the wound.
  • Keep nails short and clean.
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