Ask Jennifer: Week ending 3/1

Posted at: 01/04/2010 9:04 AM
Updated at: 02/20/2015 10:14 AM

Dear Jennifer,

My mother has just been diagnosed with cellulitis on her legs. Her legs turned bright red swelled up.  She didn’t say anything to us. I happened to notice one day and when I rolled up her pants, her skin had split and water was dripping out. We took her to the doctor and he started her on an antibiotic and wrapped her legs. Now a nurse is coming out to the house to take care of it. Mom’s legs look awful. The nurse made a comment like it was our fault. Mom lives with us, but she takes her own showers and gets dressed herself. We didn’t know. Why would the nurse say something like that?


Dear Anonymous,

Here’s what I can tell you about cellulitis:

Cellulitis is caused by an opening in the skin which allows bacteria to enter. It is a serious problem if the bacteria is a superbug.  It is associated with very dry skin which cracks, swollen extremities, dermatitis, athlete’s feet, some spider bites and open wounds. Cellulitis can include: redness, swelling, pain, hot to touch, and fever.
If Cellulitis is left untreated the bacterial infection can spread throughout the body – a serious and life-threatening condition.  Some people have poor circulation to their lower extremities which causes discoloration. This can hide the early symptom of redness. One should assess the area for heat and immediately seek medical attention if this occurs.

The best prevention of cellulitis is careful skin care with daily lotion application and careful inspection and attention to open areas / wounds. Use care to thoroughly wash the skin, dry and apply fresh lotion. Now that your mom has had cellulitis, you should help inspect her lower legs on each visit to ensure they are not dry and that cellulitis is not recurring.

I can’t speak for the nurse. If she did not explain her comment, I recommend you either speak directly to her or contact her supervisor.