Help - cellulitis

Hi everyone,

I would love to hear from anyone who gets recurrent cellulitis. I have lymphoedema in my right arm and chest wall (I’ve had a right mastectomy). I’ve now had 3 episodes of cellulitis in my arm and then 2 in my chest wall (one in Sept 2008 and one just started yesterday).

One of my problems is I never know whether I’m over-reacting as I have never been very ill with it or had to be admitted to hospital. But I have read the British Lymphology Guidelines and I have seen Prof Mortimer (once privately) so I follow their advice. However my GP has no experience of cellulitis in lymphoedema so just follows my advice …and I’m so anxious about lymphoedema/cellulitis that I’m sure I’m not objective in this situation.

This is what’s happened this episode - I would love to hear about other people’s experiences.

Yesterday at work I started with a sore throat in the morning and it got worse throughout the day. I felt achey and shivery and fluey by 6 o’clock. I got home and felt even worse so lay down on the sofa under the duvet. At that point my temp was 38.2 (ear thermometer). I thought I was getting a cold or flu at this point.

Had good night’s sleep and felt a little better this morning but temp still raised 38. Wednesday is my day off so had a bit of a lie-in. Had a shower and got dressed mid morning and noticed a red blotchy area about 5 cm diameter in my armpit/chest wall area. It is not painful - but that area has been completely numb since my surgery. Went to GP at 5pm who didn’t really know what to do but took some blood tests and told me to start Amoxycillin 500mg tds as per the guidelines (which I brought him!). I’m going to take Thurs and Fri off work but feel bad as actually I don’t feel too unwell now, just tired and a bit hot and cold. But the guidelines say rest and elevation of the limb are essential. My sore throat has completely gone and I have no symptoms of a cold such as cough or runny nose. So I suppose my symptoms and fever must be due to cellulitis??

I’m really fed up as the last episode was only 10 weeks ago. I already take preventative penicillin 500mg every day but that isn’t preventing these episodes. Also my arm lymphoedema is getting worse. 28% volume difference from my left arm when I saw my lymphoedema practitioner a few weeks ago.

I would love to hear from anyone who has had cellulitis, especially if they can give me any advice.

Thank you.


Hi Rowena

I developed lymphoedema in my affected arm 18 months ago, 10 years after my lumpectomy & axillary clearance – unusual, but not unheard of. Earlier this year, I had an episode of cellulitis in my arm that was a bit different to your experience. My arm became red, rashy, swollen, hot & painful in the space of a couple of hours one Saturday, but I didn’t have any other symptoms of cold/flu/infection, not even a fever – felt fine, except for the “alien arm”. Saw a weekend locum GP, who gave me seven days of anti-biotics, which reduced the cellulitis, but it took much longer to absolutely clear – probably needed a longer course of the drugs.

It sounds like you might benefit from another discussion with your lymphoedema practitioner, to see if there’s anything else that might help you, e.g. maybe a more suitable compression sleeve/garment as your lymphoedema is increasing? Or perhaps a different preventative anti-biotic or other treatment? Hope you get some answers & relief soon. I’ve been told that, unfortunately, once we’ve had a bout of cellulitis, we’re likely to get it again – bad news, but then which aspect of BC isn’t bad news . . .

Marilyn x

Hi Rowena,

I was supposed to start banaging 4 weeks ago for my lympheodema in my right arm, but the nurse felt my arm was hot and thought I had an infection. I was sent to my doc who prescribed me two weeks of Amoxy like yourself for two weeks but I must admit I didnt feel ill or anything like that. I had had a cold and sore throat a few weeks previous so maybe that was the start of it. Who knows? The problem is we thnk every ache or pain, every sore throat or cold is the start of another infection. What a drag it all is?? I Still havent started banaging but have had pet scan and will get results on Monday, Hopefully I can start some treatment to get my lympoedema sorted out or reduced if results okay.

I dont know what to advise as GP’s are completely in the dark over Lymphoedema. I have a red patch on the back of my shoulder which is pressure as the fluid seems to be building up around there. Maybe that is your problem?.My GP told me that If it doesnt drain, the build up of lymph can burst blood vessels in surrounding area causing bruising and blotches!!
I was told I had cellulitits but I didnt feel bad at all. I was only P******d off that I could not start the banadaging.

Good luck


Hi all

Sorry to hear about everyone having such a rubbish time with cellulitis. I’ve never had it, touch wood, but I think I’ve just been lucky…

If you want to print off something to give your GPs and your lymphoedema clinics, try this - it’s from an official NHS site!

My favourite excerpt is this:

‘Prophylactic antibiotics (Penicillin V or Erythromycin) should be considered in patients who develop recurrent episodes of cellulitis (=2 per year). In these patients the management of the lymphoedema is also reviewed, as a reduction in limb volume is associated with a reduced incidence of cellulitis (Ko et al, 1998).’

So it seems like it’s doubly worth making a fuss about MLD and bandaging, for in addition to making you more comfortable it will also reduce the likelihood of further attacks of cellulitis.



Hi All

Very interested to read your comments as I am off work with my first bout of cellulitis and it’s a bit scary.

I am 18months post diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer for which I had chemo, followed by a mastecomy and full lymph clearance and then radio.

I developed lymphodema about 3 months ago and have managed it, but not very well, with a compression sleeve 27% bigger left arm than right when last measured a month ago.

On Sunday while out shopping noticed a red patch on my arm just below my elbow, didn’t think much more about it. Woke up at 3.30am shaking with a raging temperature.

Saw consultant following day by which time arm looked like something out of a medeival horror film and was prescribed 2 lots of antibiotics and painkillers. 4 days on feel a lot better no temperature but arm still looks a bit grim, but improving slightly I think. See the consultant again tomorrow for check up.

Seems to have been caused by a small cut to my left index finger which I did washing up a chipped pyrex dish about a week ago.

Certainly made me more aware of such things and will make sure I whack down antibiotics at earliest moment should anything similar occur in the future.

Best wishes to all fellow sufferers.


I’ve found out yesterday got cellulitis for first time, it came out the blue. Really p****d off as found out last week my arm had reduced 5% to 25%. I,ve now got this blotchy red swollen thing that resembles an arm. Along with the swollen leg and foot (caused by DVT) i’m feelin abit sorry for myself at the moment. Have been given flucloxacillin and ibruprofen for 7 days. Told not to wear sleeve or do exercises/massage. Forgot to ask how long for, can anyone help on this?

Sorry about the moan.

Take care everyone


Hi Lynne - what rotten luck!

I’ve never had cellulitis, but my Medical Alert card (a freebie from Medi UK) says that antibiotics should be taken for two weeks, not one and that they should either be:

Amoxycillin 500mg tds, or if you are allergic to penicillin, Clindamycin 300mg qds

The information in the card is from a concensus document published by the BLS (British Lymphology Society) and the LSN in 2005.

Your lymphoedema nurse/clinic ought to be able to help you as regards the sleeve wearing, I suppose.

Hope you’re soon feeling better.



The tablets are 500mg and i take 2 4 times per day. I have a copy of the above given to me by lymph nurseand have just looked at it and it does say 14 days. I have been told to go back when course finished if need more. Will go back to GP with this and see if give me further supply. I’m much better today, Most of rash is gone but arm swollen, stiff and aches. Just feels like all that work put into reducing it has gone down the swannee. Wouldn’t care but due to go back to work this week as well what a shame!!!


Lynne x

Hi Lynne

So glad you’re feeling better!



Hi Lynni,

Hope you are feeling better. I’ve been on antibiotics for 11 days but I still have a small red area and my temp is still slightly up 37.8. I am on Amoxycillin 500mg three times a day.

I agree with Bahons, it is very important you are on the right antibiotic. The most likely bacteria causing the cellulitis is a streptococcus and they are sensitive to Amoxyillin, not flucloxacilin. If you google cellulitis and lymphoedema you will find the british lymphology guidelines and it might be worth showing these to your GP.

All the best, lymphoedema is so miserable and cellulitis is another nasty blow. Really hope it clears up soon.

love, Rowena

Sorry Lynni, just reread your post and realised you already have a copy of the guidelines.

Thanks Rowena

Flucloxacillin is mentioned in guidelines to take but along with Amoxycillin, but going to doctors tomorrow. I must say I’ve no redness at all and feel fine so fingers crossed, as finish course today. Abit concerned in case haven’t been on antibiotics long enough, so will take guidelines with me tomorrow. Don’t want this to flare up as soon as antibiotics stop. I was only prescribed 5 days not the 7 I previous mentioned, but there again they’ve been really strong, but there again they aren’t the ones recommended either. Yet something else to think about, keeps my mind off the mets!!!

Take care

Lynne x