Lymphie Stories Tips & Tricks

The Cellulitis Diaries: a day-by-day account of surviving infection while abroad

Few things are scarier than a bout of cellulitis - except, perhaps, getting cellulitis while in another country.

Few things are more terrifying to a lymphie than a bout of cellulitis – except, perhaps, getting a bout of cellulitis while abroad in another country.

Andy has had cellulitis a number of times, so he’s a bit lucky in that he knows the signs of infection and the importance of acting swiftly to treat it. No matter how prepared one may be, however, there’s still an element of panic when hit with an infection thousands of miles away from home.

In this guest post, Andy writes a day-by-day account of a recent episode of cellulitis he had during a business trip to Australia. If you’re a globe-trotting lymphie at risk for infection, take note – Andy’s peppered some helpful tips throughout!

Andy’s Story

I was diagnosed with primary lymphoedema 45 years ago when I was 15. From then till I was 30 my lymphoedema remained just a curiosity, a minor swelling in my right foot. Things changed in the summer of 1989 when I got cellulitis for the first time. I took me 2 weeks to recover from that first infection and it left my right leg significantly larger than it had been before. That first infection was followed by several other infections which occurred at roughly 3 month intervals. After a couple of years, and several courses of antibiotics, I got quite good at dealing with cellulitis and finally shook it off (the cellulitis not the leg) sometime around 1993. By that time my GP had taken to prescribing antibiotics for my to carry with me, just in case.

I remained free from cellulitis till August 2000 when I got an infection while holidaying in France. That resulted in a 5 night stint in a French hospital with accompanying crash course in French. I then managed to clock up 14 years and quite a few air miles with four different airlines before I fell foul of cellulitis again. During time I always carried my antibiotics with me when travelling and took care to ensure that my travel insurance covered my condition.

What follows is an account of a more recent brush with cellulitis. The account is based on notes I took at the time and includes a number of ‘learning points’, notes I made to myself about things to remember to do if I ever went down with cellulitis again. I have included dates and times to give the reader a feel for how long each “phase” lasted. My key learning point from this was that even though I started taking antibiotics within 2 hours of thinking I might possibly have cellulitis I still became very ill and took several days to recover. Cellulitis can be challenging enough when you are at home but if you travelling when it happens that adds another dimension. This experience hasn’t put a stop to my travels however there are a couple of things I won’t be doing again.

Wednesday 2nd July 2014

It was confirmed that on the following Saturday I would be off on a 2 week trip to Sydney Australia courtesy of my company. I was quite happy to have someone else paying for my first trip down under. However I knew I’d be busy and that the I would need to take care of my lymphie leg. As I was travelling on business my company healthcare insurance would cover my condition and I packed my antibiotics and compression stocking etc. The bad news was that my company’s travel policy didn’t stretch to business class flights so this was going to be a long haul.

Saturday 5th July

I left home at about 10 am to drive to Gatwick with a late morning check in at Emirates. 23 hours in Economy class lay ahead to me. As I am 6 feet 4 inches tall I requested a seat with extra legroom. My luck was in and I got extra legroom all the way to Sydney. I wore my usual compression, a knee length class III compression stocking and a Fallowwrap, round my right calf during the journey and gave my legs as much gentle exercise as I could during the flight. I used to fly to the US between 4 and 6 times a year so I was used to 9-11 hour flights but 23 hours was breaking new ground.

Sunday 6th July

Most of Sunday was spent on planes. I finally arrived in Sydney at 10 pm after 23 hours travel (21 flying, 2 hours changing planes in Dubai). I took a Taxi to hotel and crashed out at 11:30pm.

Monday 7th July

I was up and in the office by 10:30 am then I started to orientate myself round office, currency, client background etc. On Monday evening I was desperate for some exercise so I used the hotel swimming pool and jacuzzi (more of that later) and decided I should get back into swimming again.

Wednesday 8th July

I remember admiring my right leg that evening and thinking how well it had coped with the travel! I almost posted a photo on Facebook to my Lymphie friends to show that long distance air travel is possible when you have lymphedema.

Thursday 9th July

I walked 3 miles to work from South to North Sydney over Sydney Harbour bridge. The walk took just over 1 hour which I suppose wasn’t bad given traffic and some less than perfect navigation.

Photo courtesy Andy

Friday 10th July

We had a meeting scheduled with our client in North Sydney at 10 am. The office was a brisk 1/2 mile walk from the station. The weather felt slightly cold as it was winter in Sydney, however it was a bright and sunny, about 12c. The meeting started a few minutes late however at about 10:30 I noticed that I was shivering slightly. I put it down to the walk from the station. Maybe it was colder than I thought? It wouldn’t have been helped either by the ice cold Coke I had been drinking. I decided to ease back on the Coke though looking at the bottle I hadn’t actually drunk much. Something odd here!

By around 10:40 I noticed some pain behind my right thigh, it felt like it was running in a line from just behind my knee to about 6-8 inches up the back of my thigh, I started to get concerned, could this be cellulitis or was I just being paranoid? The meeting ended at 11:05 and I decided that paranoid or not this could be cellulitis. I told my colleagues I needed to return to the hotel to get some “medication”. At this point I wasn’t 100% certain that I had cellulitis but it seemed highly likely.

Learning points: Learn to recognise the symptoms of cellulitis. In my case it manifests itself as pain in the lymphatic system (nodes and sometimes in the vessels), flu like symptoms e.g. tiredness, shaking, possible temperature and maybe some redness in the limb but that usually comes later. Be ready to take action immediately.

Don’t stray far from your antibiotics, never more than a couple of hours away. I won’t be packing my antibiotics in my checked baggage on 9 hour flights again or taking day trips without at least some to hand. It didn’t matter this time but I wouldn’t want to be 2 hours into a 9 hour flight and go down with cellulitis.

I perked up a bit on the walk back to the station but headed straight for my hotel and my antibiotics.When I got to my room I took two tablets, tracked down some details of the company travel insurance then called hotel reception to find a local doctor.

Learning point: Make sure you have full travel insurance including cover for pre-existing conditions, i.e. declare your lymphoedema, make sure you covered, read the policy so you know what to do if there is a problem.

By now, noon on Friday, I was feeling quite light headed and very tired, like I had bad flu. It turned out there was a medical center 200 yard away from the hotel so I walked over there to see a doctor and get checked out. When I arrived I told the receptionist I had primary lymphoedema and probably had cellulitis. She booked me in and bumped me up to the front of queue. I probably got to see doctor at about 12:30. He took my medical history, examined my leg, diagnosed cellulitis, prescribed 2 oral antibiotics and one topical and sent me for ultrasound scan to check I didn’t have thrombosis after a long flight (23 hours) I’d had on Sunday.

Day 1
Day 1. Photo courtesy Andy

At about 1:15, I saw the receptionist at x-ray and got in queue with just one person in front of me. 1st in queue hadn’t done her prep so I got her place. More medical history then the scan. That was probably completed by 1:45pm. I paid the $175 Aussie dollars on my credit card and returned to the GP for the results. The pharmacy was next to the doctors so I picked up my prescriptions whilst waiting for the results. At about 2:45pm, the doctor came out and told me the ultrasound was clear so I paid him $100 Aussies dollars for the consultation and said goodbye.

Learning point: Make sure you have some funds available to pay emergency medical bills. You should be able to claim it back on your insurance provided you keep the receipts but be prepared to pay out first. This amounted to 400 Aussie dollars in my case and I reckon I got off lightly.

Having sorted out the medical stuff my thoughts turned to food. Eventually I settled for a large carton of Wanton soup, that would do for lunch and dinner and would help to rehydrate me. I returned to my hotel room, took the new antibiotics then waited 30 minutes and ate.

At around 6 pm a colleague who was working on the same project and staying at the same hotel called, could she get me anything? I provided a short, well actually quite long, grocery list. Then I tried calling home but got no answer, back in the UK it was 9 am and my wife would have just left for work, communication was going to be difficult. My colleague returned at about 9 pm with the groceries. Once I had stashed them I took my medication, then I used a ballpoint pen to make line on my leg recording the limit of the redness and went to bed sleeping thru till about 4 am.

Learning point: It helps to mark the extent of your cellulitis regularly, that way you know how much its spreading and others e.g. medics, can see your history written in ink. It also helps establish your credibility with them!

Saturday 11th July

4:00 am in Sydney, about 6 pm in the UK. I awoke from my slumbers and it seemed like a good time to call the UK however my wife was not answering her landline or mobile so I sent a text then watched a replay of Australia v Holland in the world cup. This was followed at 5:30 by taking my pills then breakfast at 6am followed by watching some more TV, it’s not easy sleeping when cellulitis kicks off. As I didn’t have a hard copy of the company travel insurance policy I downloaded a copy and started to study it. I decided I better put these guys in the picture because I would probably need to change my return flight which was due to return to the UK 6 days later. I called the Insurance company at 9 am and they took down my details and asked me to call their medical line in Sydney. I called their Sydney number and gave my details again. They then asked me to go to my nearest Accident and Emergency taking my passport. It turns out that the UK has reciprocal healthcare arrangements with Australia so showing my passport established my right to treatment.

Day 2
Day 1. Photo courtesy Andy

Learning points: Take a printed copy of your medical insurance with you when you travel. I was able to download mine to my laptop using the hotel WiFi but had I not had access to my laptop, my email and a WiFi I would have struggled.

Get in touch with your insurance company early, even if you don’t need them immediately , they may be able to help you but even if they have nothing immediately to offer you’ve established the case and given them details so if you do need them your next call will be shorter.

I arrived at A&E at about 11 am, filled in a form, showed my passport, got triaged and then waited 30 minutes to see a doctor. A&E was quiet, only me, a middle aged man in Lycra and a Chinese guy who was struggling to get past the admin because he didn’t have his insurance documents with him. I gave the doctor my medical history including my previous episodes of cellulitis. They took some blood, well quite a lot of blood actually, I hadn’t volunteered to be a donor, come on guys!! At around 2:30 pm the doctor told me they wanted to hit me with a lot of antibiotics so it was Intravenous drip time. That also meant they are keeping me in. At 3:00 pm a porter and nurse wheeled my bed up to the ward. On the way up the nurse filled me in on some of the history of the place. This was Australia’s oldest hospital, financed on the proceeds of rum sales. Florence Nightingale sent two nurses out here to train the others. I was deposited in a male bay on the ward. There were four of us in the bay, two alcoholics, two methadone addicts and me (go figure). I spent the rest of the evening getting used to hospital routine including IV antibiotics every 6 hours.

Sunday 12th – Thursday 16th July

I won’t bore you with the details of the next 5 days. The summary is as follows. I received IV antibiotic every 6 hours for the next 5 days. My right leg got bigger and redder from the knee down for the next two days, by Monday morning it was pretty big and quite red however the swelling was confined to below my knee. By Wednesday morning the leg was looking a lot better and by Thursday it was back to ‘normal’. My fever and general malaise followed a similar timeline to my leg however I do remember being particularly shattered on the Monday night. During the first few days I spent a lot of time checking the colour of my leg to see whether it was improving or not before concluding most difference was caused by the difference between viewing it in daylight vs artifical light. I spent a lot of time asking the doctors when I would be discharged, if they knew they kept it a closely guarded secret till late on the Thursday when I said I would be discharged the next day. I also had several conversations with my company’s HR and my insurance company about rescheduling flights but couldn’t progress that much till I had a discharge date.

Friday 17th July

By Friday morning I was desperate to get out however at 8 am the guy in the bed opposite told me that a Malaysian airline had been shot down over the Ukraine. Our route out took us south of Ukraine over Turkey and then where? The three countries bordering southern Turkey are Syria, Iraq and Iran, no worries about the return journey then. Maybe I should stay in hospital for a while?

I spent most of the rest of Friday pacing the ward and asking what time I would be discharged. I didn’t wish to seem ungrateful for my treatment but I had mentally checked out and was craving for some decent food. I was discharged from hospital at 5 pm on Friday 18th complete with a doctor’s note saying for medical reasons I had to travel back business class. The additional costs associated with the upgrade were picked up by the company’s travel insurance company :-). I stayed on in Australia for another 5 days finishing up my assignment then flew home.

Some Additional Learning points

I have always been advised to stop using my compression when I have cellulitis and I had always followed that advice however this time I made one exception. This time I put my compression on before getting out of bed. This helped me in two ways. Firstly it hugely reduced the pain that I got when my infected leg went from being propped up in bed to being below the level of body, hanging over the side of the bed. In the past I have found that when my leg goes down fluid seems to rush into it and stretch the skin, this is extremely painful (8 out of 10 in pain scale). Fortunately I found the pain only lasted for about 1 minute while the skin stretched. This time I found that wearing compression when I got out of bed reduced the pain (4 out of 10 on pain scale), probably because it reduced the stretching which also resulted in my leg returning to normal faster than had previously happened.

Bathing or showering is difficult when you have cellulitis especially if you’re wearing compression and trying to keep it dry. The tip I got in hospital was to wrap a bin bag round the limb and tape it up. It wasn’t always perfectly water tight but boy was it nice to have a shower.

Make sure you have credit on your mobile phone and a charger for the phone and kindle or life will get hard very quickly.

Mobile phones & Kindles are a godsend in hospital. If you have a kindle with 3G you can get daily papers or download a book when you are almost anywhere in the world at minimal cost. Last time I had cellulitis I got stuck in a French hospital for a week with one paperback that I didn’t get on with, this time life was much easier.

Photo courtesy Andy

While still in Australia I had made arrangements to see my GP and Lymphoedema nurse back in the UK. When I got back my GP put me on a low dose of antibiotics for 12 months.

What could have caused the cellulitis? The $64 million dollar question. The blood cultures at the hospital didn’t throw any light on the cause of the infection As to the point of the infection, well remember that walk I mentioned across Sydney Harbour bridge? On the Friday I when was taken ill I noticed I had a cut and some blood on my 3rd toe on my right foot, the cut had been made by the nail on the fourth toe. I think blood was just a signpost to the point of entry. The entry probably took place in the swimming pool or, more likely jacuzzi. My lymphie right leg then acted as a bug incubator till, on Friday morning, the infection spread into my lymphatic system and then into my general circulation.

Learning Point: Andy! Cut your toes nail more often and stay out of Jacuzzis . Incidentally I had several bouts of cellulitis in the early 1990’s when my kids were young and I often spent time with them in warm kids pools in public swimming pools.

My experience in Australia has made my think a little more carefully about foreign travel, in future I want to stay within striking distance of a decent hospital but I’m still travelling. In the 12 months following the trip to Australia I went to the States 3 times on business and Italy twice on holiday. I am not going to let my experience with cellulitis rule my life but hopefully I’ve learnt something from it.

-Andy B., 2017

A big thank-you to Andy for sharing his experience as well as some great tips for fellow lymphies!

How about you all – have you had cellulitis while abroad? What was your experience like, and do you have any ‘learning points’ of your own?


26 comments on “The Cellulitis Diaries: a day-by-day account of surviving infection while abroad

  1. Luckily I haven’t had cellulitis “abroad” – which for me would be out of Japan – and I’ll admit reading this piece was a bit triggering for me. (Note to self – must discuss this AGAIN with therapist.) Especially as I’m just about to take a 19-hour trip to Malta in a week! My therapist has been advising me to prepare AHEAD of time by trying to get extra rest and keep my immunity/strength up.

    This is peripheral advice to traveling – I can give advice about going to the tropics for those who are interested! – but one of my leg therapists recommended early on that I always FILE the toenails on my lymphie leg, not cut or clip. Reason being that with filing or clipping there’s chances of nicks or cutting too far. I’ve found this really handy and tend to my foot about once a week since, like Andy, I did once get a cut from a toenail on another toe.

  2. Wow! Thanks very much for sharing your story ..especially for your insight in how the Cellolitis developed. I have just come through a two week episode of Cellulitis myself while at home in Oz. I believe the infection was caused when a small dog bit my finger , drawing blood when I gave him his dinner. What a saga that was! Love the posts and Best wishes that you don’t have such a severe reaction while overseas again 😁🌷🦋

  3. Oh, and when I fly I wear an extra layer of compression, a commercial Dr Scholl’s stocking over my regular garment. This has helped me get through 14-hour non-stop flights from the US to Japan with very little in the way of change in terms of size and feeling.

  4. Hi! Glad you made it through that journey…. You mention showering with compression while in the hospital-I was taught that you DON’T wear compression during infections, as it can drive the infection further into the body (specifically the lymphatics)….. Also might want to check with a Infectious Disease Doctor to be put on a lower dose of antibiotics when traveling (called Prophylaxis Therapy) to prevent an infection from flaring up and/or lessen the effects of any infection you might get hit with……Just some food for thought from the US…..Be Well!!!

    • Hi Paula, I was also told not to wear compression when I have cellulitus and most of the time I won’t dream of wearing it when I’m sick but I now make an exception when have to get out of bed because, in my experience, the alternative of just letting my skin stretch when the fluid rushes into my leg is does more damage.

  5. Hi Andy, This is all really useful advice and I can definitely sympathise, having been through very similar situations myself many times. I have genital lymphoedema which as you can imagine is pretty difficult to manage at the best of times, and even more tough when I’m off travelling somewhere and end up with cellulitis!

    As you say, it pays to be prepared and I always have my ’emergency’ co-amoxiclav antibiotics to hand – I keep a dose of two tablets in my wallet so that I will always have access to that first dose no matter where I am. Through experience, I have found that taking the antibiotic straight away, as soon as you get even the vaguest hint that something might be starting, can really lessen the severity of the infection, and sometimes do away with it altogether.

    It’s also good that you accepted help from your colleague and you weren’t too proud about it. That’s another thing I’ve learnt. Cellulitis is a very serious condition which could threaten my life. I take it seriously and I ask for help or support no matter what the situation is. IV antibiotics are a last resort but they have saved my life on a few occasions.

    • Hi Frank, yes I think it’s important to know when to ask for help. I would actually go further than that and say sometimes people may need to know when they need it. The first time I got cellulitis in my leg instead of retiring to bed till the infection was over AND staying there till the swelling went down I got up and round. Here I am 30 years on and my leg never got back to where it was . Don’t mess with cellulitis or it will mess with you.

    • Hi Frank, glad you found my story useful. Genital lymphodema must be tough and not something that gets discussed much. Hope you manage to keep it under control if not improve your condition.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Andy.
    As I write this I am into my 6th day in a Spanish Hospital in Madrid with Cellutis.
    A long way from my home and language in Australia !!!
    This is my 3rd bout of the illness within 2 years and 12 months ago I was likely to retain my leg after 4 weeks hospitalisation and a double severe infection.
    This time I was more prepared for early symptoms and travelling with oral antibiotics.
    When shaking and fevers commenced it was time for hospital admission immediately and IV antibiotics.
    I agree with all in this article as I’m experiencing it right now in a foreign country !
    Just to add – I had to stand my ground when going through ED for assessment that it was cellulitis and not just a 24 hr fever. Pays to carry a photo on your phone of your body with the cellutis to prove to medicos that you are in danger of recurrent cellutis.

    • Hi Paul, hope you are on the road to recovery. Photos are a good idea, must be helpful in establishing medical history and credibility, must remember to have one available next time I travel.

      Have you thought about documenting your experience while they are fresh in your mind? I am sure they could help others.

      BTW I too have suffered cellulitis while abroad in an none English speaking country. That resulted in 5 days in a French hospital (rubbish TV but good food 😁). Unfortunately I didn’t document that one.

      • Paul Reis

        Hi Andy, just arrived home after 30 hrs in the air !!! Off to see my infectious diseases doctor now to check me out and see if we can get an answer as to why this happened again.
        My experience in a foreign hospital was truly frightening because of language difficulties and level of treatment.
        I’m relieved to be home !

  7. Adrienne Allen-Laing

    I returned from my first holiday in Turkey in the early hours of Tuesday morning. On Monday morning I noticed 2 insect bites on my forearm and one on my shoulder. They looked quite swollen so I put some bite cream on as my flight was later that evening. By the time I got to the airport, they had swollen some more and by the time I got off the plane my arm really hurt when I pulled my luggage along. I had a two hour drive home and desperately needed some sleep, but was really worried about the size and weight of my arm when I got home and rushed right over to A&E. I was given 1000mg Flucloxicillan four times a day. The tablets make me feel ill,but it seems to be doing the job slowly. My arm is still red and painful but the swelling is going. Today is day 3 of treatment and I am still off work…

    • Andy Bury

      Hi Adrienne, sorry to hear about your arm. I think my first cellulitis was in my right arm but that happened before I was aware of the condition and as it was in the middle of my final exams I had other things to worry about, So returning to your infection bites are a risk so a good bug repellant is a must if you are travelling to bug ridden areas. Try and keep your arm elevated and don’t risk going back to work till the infection has gone AND the swelling has gone down. I got out and about too early after the first cellulitis I had in my leg and it never got back to its pre-infection size.

  8. Erick Syros

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I think it has been very helpful, a friend of mine got Cellulitis and we have no idea what it was and worst of all what could have caused it, I hope it do not become recurrent.

  9. I am glad to find this site. I have just had my first experience of cellulitis at 53. Hospitalised for a week and 5 weeks of antibiotics.I wasn’t sure why it started but from reading all your comments and experiences, especially Adrienne’s, I think mine too was due to being bitten by mosquito’s in Cuba last August. I didn’t realise that the bites could be so problematic and just treated them with topical cream. My leg did swell up but then seemed to go down again after a month. I will be using the hints and tips you all have posted.

  10. This has been such an enlightening diary and subsequent comments to read! I’m recovering at the moment, at home, from my 4th bout of cellulitis since 2012.
    That one had me in hospital for 9 days then 2.5 wks at home with my leg raised. We had literally flown in from the US that day and they were concerned about DVT. I was on I/v antibiotics but also had a liver function concern so I think I was in for an extra day for that. After the home rest I got the ok to go back to reduced load work, was so happy to get my freedom back then 30 mins later got a call from Mum’s nursing home to say I’d better come. She died 3 days later. Great time in my life! Not!
    Anyway the next two bouts weren’t as bad but all had the tell- tale early symptoms but not always all of them- shivering, aches, nausea and vomiting. Then the redness, swelling, pain and such heaviness.
    The only ‘way in’ that I had was a fairly innocuous carpet burn type graze on a toe- maybe from a sock rubbing? Just have to be so careful and vigilant with anything that opens the skin. It’s so easy to forget or get complacent.
    I always carry medication but have only been out of my own beautiful Australia once since then so at least I know the system etc here. During that US trip I had a troublesome ingrown toenail and took my meds just in case something should happen toget in through that painful site. Dr said I did absolutely the right thing.
    Anyway this bout is clearing so fingers crossed it’s the last !

  11. Hi Joyce, glad you found the article interesting. Hope you get over your 4th bout quickly and that there isn’t a fifth. If there is maybe you could share that story.

  12. Christine Martin

    Hi Andy. I found this site looking for information related to lymphedema and travel. My cellulitis started this past Sunday – I got to the ED right away and started IV antibiotics. Now home on oral. My worry is I’m supposed to go to Costa Rica this Saturday and don’t know if I should go. Arm is doing better but not sure if I should deliver myself into a warm buggy environment. I’d love to hear any thoughts from you or other readers. Thanks! Glad I find this site.

  13. Hi Christine,
    I certainly wouldn’t recommend traveling when you have cellulitis, except possible to get home for better treatment. I don’t seek out buggy environments though I still travel quite a bit. If you do go to Costa Rica I hope the trip goes smoothly. Don’t forget to take some antibiotics with you and check your health insurance cover.

    • Christine Martin

      So it’s 6 days later and my arm is back to normal size. Clindamycin 3 times a day. Luckily I work in a rehab department with excellent lymphedema therapists and they have seen me everyday for bandaging and MLD. My MD gave me a go ahead to travel, but with very conservative activity plans. That’s good with me. I will be on antibiotics throughout the trip and after. Day and night sleeve. I’m hoping sitting under an umbrella next to the pool with a warm breeze will be most healing of all. Stress tends to be one of my biggest lymphedema triggers — hopefully stress level will be waaaaay down.

    • Christine Martin

      Oh, geez. Also, thank you so much for your kind reply. Where are my manners?

    • Christine Martin

      So it’s March 1 and my Costa Rica trip is almost over. My arm is doing well with regular care and I’ve been able to do most of the things I wanted to do. Be careful and courageous. There is a beautiful world out there!

  14. Hi Andy

    Thank you for sharing your story, I’m mind blown and also reassured that the condition is manageable, it’s given me lots of hints and tips to be aware of and after my last episode I’ve decided to keep a set of antibiotics at home to be able to start them as soon as I feel the familiar tingle. I think I’ll be taking them abroad now after reading your article.
    I’m a newbie to the cellulitis experience, I’ve had 5 episodes in the last 2 years and my doctors aren’t too sure on where and how it starts other than a minor graze on my foot as an entry point….they were adamant I had athletes foot the first 3 times, which I definitely don’t, I think mine started with a insect bite, as it starts at the same place,, I’ve also now found Fucidic cream helps heal my skin after infection, the only link I’ve made is when I’ve been gardening or in the loft?! It’s extremely scary as every time I get it, it seems to spread quicker and requires a drip in hospital to bring it under control.
    Is there anything you could suggest for me to be saying to my doctor to look at anything else or is this all just a coincidence?!
    Any advice and pointers much appreciated as my doctors don’t seem to be great at knowing much about the condition.
    I’m fit and healthy 46 year old otherwise and has tests to discount diabetes and liver conditions?!
    Thanks for your time and best wishes

    • Andy Bury

      Hi Kay,
      Glad you found it useful. Good to hear your doctor has given you antibiotics to keep ‘just incase’ I would strongly recommend you take your antibiotics with you when you travel. That said I have just returned from a trip to Scotland and only realised when I was writing this reply that I hadn’t taken my antibiotics with me, Doh!
      The mysteries of repeat cellulitis infections. Apparently these are common amongst lyphies. After my first cellulitis in 1989 I have suffered several repeat infections over period of a couple of years till it eventually petered out. Personally I don’t buy into the idea these repeat infections are ALLl from cuts or grazes or athlete’s foot, if they were I would be getting cellulitis on a monthly basis. A couple of friends of mine who don’t have lymphedema have had cellulitis, one had it so frequently he just used to make his way to casualty with a small suitcase ready to check in. At the time he was a front row rugby player so no wimp. He received a very bizarre explanation for his repeat infections. My other friend got cellulitis in her foot which the examining doctor attributed to signs of athletes foot in her other foot. I think some doctors just look for any signs of the patient’s skin being breached and then when they find it declare victory and go home. To be honest from their perspective the important thing is to make the correct diagnosis (cellulitis) and then begin effective treatment as quickly as possible.Doctors don’t have the luxury of the time needed to do root cause analysis

      So where does that leave you?
      1) If you are getting repeat infections consider asking your doctor for a long term (6-12 months) course of low dose antibiotics. I dislike taking medication when I’m not actually ill but I’ve done that before now and avoided repeat infections.
      2) It does make sense to treat any signs of athlete’s foot but be careful. A couple a years ago, following a cellulitis infection I tried to treat my foot with a cream that was supposed to get rid of athlete’s foot. Unfortunately the cream blistered my skin and I ended up, yes you guessed it, I end up catching cellulitis a couple of days later.Another thing to avoid is jacuzzi’s or bathing in warm swimming pools. Thinking back to my infections in the early 90’s when my kids were young I spent a lot of time with them in a very warm, very crowded, kids public paddling / swimming pools. Probably a great place to pick up an infection.
      3) Ask your doctor for antibiotics to keep just in case you get an infection. Then make sure you keep them with you just in case you need them.
      4) Try and keep fit and keep your weight down to control your lymphedema and help you overcome any cellulitis infections.
      5) Have a look the the LSN website. There is lots of useful information there.https://www.lymphoedema.org/
      6) Get one with your life, you only get one chance at it so don’t let lymphedema or cellulitis constrain you but then won’t recommend going into any bug infested jungles or jacuzzi’s either.

  15. Really helpful article and follow ups that have given me some reassurance. I’m in Oz and 6 days ago gashed my shin on a shrub located in a planted area outside a shop ( too embarrassed to explain but it wasn’t alcohol related!). I immediately washed cuts and within two hours had applied antiseptic cream. Following day went diving (1st time) on GBR. Lower leg started to feel puffy and heavy about 2 days later but I’d booked a Sydney harbour bridge walk, ego wouldn’t let me back out. Normally I’ve had cuts and scrapes but got over them ok. After the walk my let really sore and after stopping the first step on affected leg really painful! Decided something not right so went to St Vincent’s hospital A&E. The triage nurse got me fast tracked to a medic who immediately diagnosed cellulitis, took blood for testing and gave me a tetanus jab. As I’d been in sea and had a 1.5hr flight next day to Brisbane was prescribed2 types A/biots but not put on drip.
    Never had this before and certainly would not want again……really painful and debilitating!! I’m due to fly home in 3 days but not sure whether to delay. My cousin with whom I’m staying with has several MD friends so I may get more advice.
    Thanks again for your article Andy and also all contributors. I don’t think I have lymphodoema but will go see my GP when I get home.
    Rob Pilch age 65.

  16. Susan paisley

    Oh gosh. It’s a good job I read your diary Andy. I have lymphodema from a bad case of cellulitis a few years ago which went to sepsis within a few days and caused serious complication with my insulin controlled diabetes. I am very overweight. I didn’t know flying could trigger cellulitis I often get problems with cracked skin on a toe and have that at the moment. I am needing to go out to Australia to help my 91 year old dad who has just lost my mum. I didn’t know I should have antibiotics with me. I think I had better see my Doctor before booking a flight and check I am going to be safe to fly.

    A few years ago I flew to Australia soon after having an operation to remove a Breast cancer and I developed lymphodema in my breast. No cellulitus thankfully.

    Your post and replies may have saved my ice. At least I am warned now. Thankyou

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