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Pain and red skin on calf. Diagnosed with cellulitis and treated with iv antibiotic. Effective treatment?

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Emergency Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2006
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My husband woke to pain and bright red coloring in his right calf. Painfull enough that he has trouble walking. Went to doctor was told he has cellulitis. Was in hospital for IV anitbiotics. Came home two days latter the site broke open. Still on oral bioticis. Wound is still open. Can you suggest treatment?
Posted Fri, 22 Feb 2013 in Infections
Answered by Dr. Sheeba Stephen 3 hours later
Hello and welcome to Healthcare Magic. Thanks for your query.

Cellulitis is a severe infection of the skin and underlying soft tissues. Whenever this causes a localized collection of pus underneath, it is normal for the site to break open. This is actually a good sign because the pus gets drained out and prevents the infection from spreading deeper or to other areas.

Since your husband has had iv antibiotics and is currently on oral antibiotics also, it is likely that the acute phase has passed and that the infection is gradually subsiding. At this stage I would suggest the following measures:
1) Continue oral antibiotics as prescribed.
2) Clean the wound with Betadine solution twice a day.
3) Place a clean, loose gauze dressing over the open area, so that the residual pus and fluid is able to drain out. Do not put a tight dressing as it can hamper the drainage of pus. While cleaning and dressing, you can even gently put pressure on the surrounding area to drain out the pus fully. Don't pinch or squeeze with your fingers, but rather apply a gentle flat pressure from the sides.
4) You can take anti-inflammatory medication (like Ibuprofen) to help the inflammation subside faster.
5) At nights, keep the affected leg elevated on a pillow, to prevent accumulation of fluid and edema.
6) With antibiotics, the infection should subside completely in the next few days. In case, there is persistent and excessive discharge from the wound, or if your husband develops fever or chills or a sudden worsening of the pain or surrounding redness, then he should report to his doctor immediately.

Wish you all the best.

Dr. Sheeba Stephen
Emergency Medicine Specialist
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