Cellulitis in Children, Babies, Kids and Infants

Cellulitis is a common bacterial infection. It develops beneath but may involve superficial skin. The legs, arms and face are commonly affected. In cold seasons or weather, children are more likely to develop cellulitis.

Early signs include redness and swelling in a localized area. Although cellulitis is not contagious, it rapidly spreads to adjacent areas and sometimes to distant organs. It is for this reason that periorbital cellulitis and orbital cellulitis symptoms are more common in children recently diagnosed with a sinus infection. Without treatment, sign of systematic illness such as fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes may develop.

Cellulitis in children causes, risk factors, symptoms and treatment


Children easily pick up injuries when playing. Since the whole idea of keeping wounds clean has not yet made full sense to them, bacteria may be picked from different places. This is one of the two main processes that cellulitis in children follows. Staphylococcus bacteria is usually introduced this way.

Infections in the upper respiratory tract and ears can also act as a source of cellulitis bacteria. This is mostly seen in case of pneumonia and H influenzae type B bacteria. As bacteria seek to expand their colonies, they invade adjacent healthy tissues. It is through this process that eye cellulitis in kids occurs. In fact, periorbital cellulitis in adults may develop in the same fashion.


Symptoms begin not long after picking up the cellulitis bacteria. At first, they are confined to the affected area but soon become systematic.

The first signs to show up are redness and swelling. There usually is no defined border to where the affected area reaches. As bacteria divide and immune cells fight them off, the area feels hot and tender. There also may be a mild “orange peel” appearance.

Systematic symptoms may develop overnight. The child will develop fever, chills and probably lose appetite. They may experience increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, abnormal sweating, confusion, irritability, vomiting and swollen lymph nodes.


Treatment is very necessary even before it comes to fever and chills. Oral antibiotics such as Keflex for cellulitis are usually prescribed although the doctor may go with hospitalization and IV antibiotics. At home care measures to keep wounds clean and to take care of the skin will greatly help. Early treatment for infections in the upper respiratory tract, ear and mouth is also important for prevention.


Below are prevention measures that may help with cellulitis in children:

  • Warn your child against sharing personal items
  • Encourage them to regularly wash their hands
  • Use clean bandages to cover injured areas
  • Treat insect bites and bug bites with topical agents such as calamine lotion
  • Apply moisturizers on your child’s skin daily
  • See your doctor if suspicious signs of cellulitis develop

Cellulitis in babies causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention


Cellulitis in babies is mostly caused by discontinuities and injuries on the skin. These are really risk factors rather than causes however. Bacteria are the main culprits behind cellulitis in babies. Only rarely will viruses or fungi be responsible. Skin injuries only act as portals of entry through which bacteria reach soft tissues. It is in soft tissues that bacteria build their colonies and start spreading.

Risk factors

  • Cuts
  • Burns
  • Sores
  • Dry, scaly or dry skin such as caused by eczema
  • Chicken pox or shingles
  • Bug bites
  • Insect stings
  • Dog/cat scratch
  • Other infections, including styes, cellulitis throat infection and pneumonia

Cellulitis can also develop after surgery. This is especially when the surgery is done in a hospital. Babies with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop severe and frequent infections.


Symptoms begin on the skin around a recent injury. Redness, swelling and warmth are usually the first to show up. To the touch, the swollen area will feel tender and sometimes hardened or tightened. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion


Early cellulitis in babies can be easily treated in a pediatric center. This is done with antibiotics. See what is the best antibiotic for cellulitis for details. Once symptoms include fever or affected vision, hospitalization and treatment with IV antibiotics may be necessary. The doctor will run a couple of tests to determine the severity of the infection. In most cases, babies are able to recover without complications.


The following prevention measures may help prevent cellulitis in babies:

  • Keeping wounds clean, dry and covered
  • Using moisturizers and other skin care products to prevent skin damage
  • Washing your hands with antibacterial soap before handling injured skin area of your baby
  • Treating or getting vaccinated against diseases like pneumonia
  • Reporting suspicious signs of infection to your doctor

Cellulitis in infants causes, symptoms and treatments

Infants are particularly susceptible to cellulitis. This is owing to their yet to fully develop immune system. Harmful bacteria are something you may not want to see around an infant. Funny enough, they play an important role in the development of immune system. Once an infant is out of its mother’s womb, it comes into contact with millions of bacteria. Some will be in the birth canal, in clothing, on the mother’s hands and in the milk, and so on. This systematic introduction to pathogens works almost similarly to vaccines. It tells immune cells what is out there. This is why vaginal delivery is preferred to Caesarian section when conditions allow.

A form of cellulitis that sometimes develops in infants is known as omphalitis of a  newborn, or umbilical cellulitis. Soon after delivery, the umbilical cord is cut to separate the baby from its mother. A small chunk called a stump which is attached to the abdominal wall is left behind. Normally, it falls off within three to fifty days. This can be encouraged by allowing air to circulate around it. Bacteria sometimes grows in the stump and ends up causing infection. This form of cellulitis in infants is particularly dangerous. It can for example cause sepsis, since the young immune system of the infant is yet to learn how infections are fought. Treatment should be sought before infection reaches the abdominal wall.

First signs present as those of typical cellulitis. There will be redness and swelling. The stump may feel hot and become tender. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pus
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Skin yellowing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pain

Treatment is usually done with IV antibiotics. This requires hospitalization. Serious cases require surgery to remove dead tissue caused by necrotizing fasciitis. Prognosis is poorer for infants requiring surgery as part of treatment.

Complications of cellulitis in children and babies

A localized cellulitis infection is not deadly. Problems set in once the infection spreads and becomes more mature. This leads to what are known as complications of cellulitis. They include:

  • Sepsis – sepsis is when chemicals sent to fight infection trigger systematic inflammation in the body. This creates a medical emergency, which if not addressed, patients can go to septic shock or die. Early symptoms include trouble breathing and drop in blood pressure.
  • Meningitis – meningitis is inflammation of tissues surrounding spinal cord and brain. It develops when infection reaches these organs. Meningitis can kill its victims in a matter of minutes. Signs include headache, confusion and seizure.
  • Lymphangitis – this is inflammation of lymphatic vessels and nodes. It is occurs when bacteria invade the lymphatic system. If not treated, it can lead to obstruction or damage to lymphatic system. This can lead to weakened immune system and lymphedema.
  • Gangrene – this is a where some tissue or organ is not getting any or enough blood supply. It is mostly seen in scrotal cellulitis in adults. Early signs include skin paleness and loss of sensation. Blood supply is cut by a pocket of fluid that results from a nearby cellulitis infection. This complication should be addressed immediately. Surgery or drainage with needle and syringe can be used for treatment.

There are other possible complications such as loss of vision, abscess and necrotizing fasciitis.

When to see a doctor

For some reason, your child may decide to not inform you of a wound big enough to cause infection or something like that. It therefore is important for parents to do some spying and be on the lookout for any changes in their kid’s health status. See your doctor immediately after you notice signs of cellulitis.