December 9, 2022

Cellulite Healing Stages: Timeline with Antibiotics

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that often affects the legs and feet, causing pain, warmth, redness and swelling. In order to treat cellulitis, oral antibiotics are most often used to kill the bacteria responsible for the skin infection.

This article will go over the cellulite healing timeline and the different stages of healing.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

Brief Overview of Cellulitis Infection

Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria that enter through a cut, bite or other type of wound, or through dry, cracked skin. It is most often caused by group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Cellulitis is usually red, swollen, painful and warm to the touch.

People with weakened immune systems, venous insufficiency, lymphedema, poor healing from chronic diseases like diabetes, or inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis are at increased risk of developing cellulitis.

Cellulite Healing Stages

Cellulitis progresses through several stages as the infection begins to heal. Most infections heal within 10 days.

Before treatment

Before antibiotic treatment, cellulitis usually causes redness, pain, swelling, and warmth. You may notice pitting on your skin (called orange peel skin) or blisters, and you may also have a fever or chills.

After three days

After the first three days of antibiotic treatment, your pain will usually decrease. You may also start to notice that your swelling is starting to go down and the infected area is no longer very warm.

After five days

After five days of antibiotic treatment, most people will notice a significant decrease in pain, swelling, and redness. At this point, the affected area of ​​skin may no longer be sensitive to the touch.

After ten days

Assuming your body responded well to antibiotic treatment, most if not all of your cellulitis symptoms should disappear within 10 days of antibiotic treatment. Common practice when treating uncomplicated cellulitis is to prescribe a 10-day course of oral antibiotics, although research has shown that a five-day course can be just as effective.

If the antibiotics don’t work

If your cellulitis symptoms do not begin to improve within a few days of starting oral antibiotic treatment, or if your fever worsens and/or you experience nausea or vomiting, seek medical help immediately to stop the spread of cellulitis. your infection. Severe pain is usually also a sign that the infection is getting worse.

Take your medications as prescribed

It is important that you take your oral antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Failure to do so could delay the time it takes for your cellulite to heal.

Symptoms Requiring Urgent Care

When your initial dose of oral antibiotics prescribed by your health care provider does not improve your symptoms, or if you begin to develop new symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea and/or vomiting, you will need medical attention immediate. Most likely, you will receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics, which travel through your bloodstream and are more powerful than oral antibiotics in treating an infection.

Potential complications

Severe cases of cellulitis can spread to underlying tissue, including muscle and bone, and may require surgical treatment to remove infected tissue. Without removal of infected tissue, life-threatening sepsis can occur in which the infection spreads rapidly through the bloodstream and throughout the body.

Surgical debridement in which parts of your infected skin and muscle are removed is attempted first for severe infections. If debridement fails to cure the infection, limb amputation is the last resort for life-saving treatment.

Recurrent cellulitis

It is estimated that 8% to 20% of people who have had cellulite will experience recurring cellulite. If you’re one of them, talk to your health care provider about prophylactic oral antibiotics. Research has shown that they can help reduce the risk of recurrence.

Skin care and prevention

If you have a sore on your skin, keeping it clean and well maintained can help reduce your risk of cellulitis. And if you’re prone to cracking your skin, either because of a condition like eczema or because you have dry skin, applying a thick moisturizer can help create a barrier against bacteria and to protect against infection.


Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that causes pain, warmth, redness, and swelling of the affected area of ​​the body, most commonly the legs and feet. Oral antibiotic treatment will usually eliminate symptoms within ten days. If your infection does not respond to oral antibiotics, you will likely receive IV antibiotics. If your cellulitis progresses and causes complications, surgery may be needed to prevent sepsis.

A word from Verywell

If you notice an area of ​​skin that becomes red, hot, swollen, and painful, contact your health care provider immediately. Cellulite usually heals well, especially when treated early.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you treat cellulitis besides antibiotics?

    Antibiotics, given by mouth or intravenously, are the main form of treatment used to treat cellulitis. If your infection persists, debridement or removal of infected tissue may be necessary.

  • Does cellulite cause permanent skin changes?

    Cellulitis can cause permanent skin changes if the infection worsens and spreads to underlying tissues such as muscle and bone.

  • Is cellulite contagious?

    Cellulite is not transmitted from person to person. However, the infection can spread if not treated properly.