Symptoms of cellulitis develop suddenly and can get worse quickly. It affects the skin and can also cause additional symptoms.

Skin symptoms

Cellulitis causes the affected skin to become:

  • red
  • hot
  • swollen
  • painful
  • tender

There may also be a break in the skin, although this isn't always obvious, and pus or blood-filled blisters.

Any part of the body can be affected.

Commonly affected areas include the lower legs, feet, arms or hands, and sometimes the face, particularly around the eyes.

See your GP or visit your nearest minor injuries unit as soon as possible if an area of your skin suddenly turns red, painful and hot.

Additional symptoms

Cellulitis can also cause additional symptoms that may develop before or alongside the changes to your skin.

These can include:

  • feeling generally unwell
  • feeling sick
  • shivering
  • chills

Occasionally the infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the deeper layers of tissue, blood, muscle and bone. This can be very serious and potentially life threatening.

Signs the infection has spread include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a fast heartbeat or fast breathing
  • being sick
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • confusion or disorientation
  • cold, clammy, pale skin
  • unresponsiveness or loss of consciousness

Call 999 or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department immediately if you have other symptoms in addition to changes to your skin.

Page last reviewed: 09/08/2016

Next review due: 09/08/2019