If you work in an environment where accidents are more likely to occur, it’s important to take extra precautions, even with your personal hygiene. Work environments with lots of dirt, dust, grime, or the potential for fire increase the risk of an accident in which you’re wounded or burned. Bacteria, which are present everywhere, can seep into a cut, puncture wound, or burn and cause cellulitis, a skin infection that can also burrow into layers of tissue under the surface.
In addition to increased susceptibility to cellulitis from the dangers of your work environment, your body may be vulnerable to cellulitis from a pre-existing condition. If you have any of the following, you may be more at risk:
- Recurring athlete’s foot
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
- Animal or insect bites
- Surgical incisions
- A weakened immune system
- A chronic condition such as diabetes
- Poor circulation
Additionally, if you do have any surface cuts or wounds, you should avoid places where bacteria thrive, such as public pools and hot tubs, as well as many larger, natural bodies of water, like rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Cellulitis has definite symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. As with other serious infections, if cellulitis is left untreated, it can spread through the entire body and require hospitalization. It can even lead to a bone infection or gangrene. In short, untreated cellulitis can be life-threatening; bacteria can spread through your bloodstream quickly.
Here are a few common signs of a cellulitis infection:
- Red or swollen skin
- A fast-growing rash or sore
- An abscess containing pus
- Skin that’s tender to the touch
- Skin that’s warmer than surrounding areas
- A dizzy or lightheaded feeling
If you show any of these symptoms, contact Dr. Sarfraz A. Choudhary at Infectious Diseases Tropical Medicine and Travel Clinic right away.
If the symptoms above are accompanied by blistering or red streaks on the skin or feelings of extreme drowsiness or lethargy, seek help immediately, as these are signs that the infection may be spreading.
How to prevent cellulitis
As with many medical conditions, prevention is key. If you cut yourself or develop any type of wound, wash the area and apply antibiotic ointment as soon as possible. Cover the injury with a bandage, and change the bandage at least once a day. Check regularly to make sure the wound isn’t draining pus.
If you work in an environment teeming with dirt, grime, mud, or chemicals, or if you have a health condition that places you at an increased risk of infection, make personal hygiene a priority. Here are a few tips to keep harmful bacteria at bay:
- Use a moisturizer on your skin so it doesn’t crack
- Treat athlete’s foot and other skin infections right away
- Use gloves, goggles, and/or protective clothing when handling dirty or dangerous objects
- Check your feet every day to ensure they’re healthy
If you suspect you have a skin infection, get it treated promptly so that it doesn’t spread. Call or book an appointment online with the Infectious Diseases Tropical Medicine and Travel Clinic in Lansdowne, Virginia.