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Antibiotics For Skin Infection

Antibiotics For Skin Infection

As you may know, skin is the largest organ of the body and its primary function is to protect your insides from harm. Being the barrier between your internal organs, muscles, and bones and the external world is a tough job.

Everyone gets scrapes, cuts, and minor burns from time to time. Sometimes we get bigger wounds and millions of people get stitches a year. No matter how small your wound, if you break your skin you're prone to a bacterial skin infection.

If you do have a bacterial skin infection you will likely need antibiotics to treat it.

So what should you do if you suspect you have a skin infection? Do you need medical attention? And should you take antibiotics?

There’s a lot to know about skin infections. Here’s a rundown about skin infections and whether or not you should take antibiotics.

To see images of the most common skin infections and rashes read:
What’s My Rash? Pictures And Descriptions Of 21 Rash Types

Types of skin infection

There are four different types of skin infection, and each type of skin infection will require a different treatment. The four types of skin infection are:

  • Bacterial
  • Viral
  • Fungal
  • Parasitic

You will only need antibiotics for a skin infection if the infection is bacterial. This is because antibiotics only fight off bacteria.

So before taking antibiotics for a skin infection be sure that your infection is bacterial. Taking antibiotics when you do not need them can be bad for your health as it can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Symptoms of a Skin Infection

Skin infections range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Red skin (especially surrounding a wound)
  • Red streaks around a wound
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Skin that appears to be dying

If these symptoms are severe or are accompanied by a high fever or other concerning symptoms, you should seek medical attention. Severe skin infections can affect other parts of your body and can even become life-threatening.

Common Bacterial Skin Infections

There are a few common skin infections that are typically caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.


Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that is fairly common. It typically starts as a red and swollen area on your lower leg, although it can also appear on any part of your body or your face.

Cellulitis appears to be an infection on the surface of your skin, but it also affects the underlying tissues. If left untreated, cellulitis may become serious and can spread to your bloodstream or lymph nodes.

What are Symptoms of Cellulitis?
Symptoms of cellulitis:

  • Red and inflamed skin at the affected site
  • Pain and tenderness around the affected area
  • Skin may look swollen or glossy and feel tight
  • The site may feel warm or hot to the touch
  • A rash may appear that grows quickly and is painful
  • The area may develop an abscess with pus inside
  • Fever

Above is an illistration of cellulitis from drugs.com

Can You Use Antibiotics for Cellulitis?

Yes. Antibiotics are a first line of treatment for cellulitis and are extremely effective in most cases. If your infection is not yet serious, your doctor may give you a prescription for antibiotics to take by mouth for 7 to 14 days. Your doctor will also request that you schedule an appointment for a follow up visit.

For more severe cases of cellulitis, your doctor may want to use IV antibiotics or intramuscular antibiotics. You might require this type of antibiotic treatment because you have other medical problems or are in a high-risk category such as infants and the elderly. Other reasons may include that the infection is close to sensitive body parts like your eyes, or if the infection is not going away with oral antibiotics after 2 to 3 days.

In some cases, you may need to be hospitalized and given IV antibiotics to make sure that the infection is under control. Typically, your stay in the hospital may be 2 to 3 days, and then you will be given oral antibiotics to take at home.

What Antibiotics Are Used for Cellulitis?

Some common antibiotics that your doctor may prescribe are:

• Augmentin (Amoxicillin and clavulanate)
• Unasyn (Ampicillin and sulbactam)
• Keflex (Cephalexin)
• Rocephin (Ceftriaxone)
• Cefazolin
• Zosyn (Piperacillin and tazobactam)

Staph Infection

Staph infections are caused by the staphylococcus bacteria, which is easily transmitted through contact with infected people, surfaces, or food. Staphylococcus bacteria can survive temperature extremes, drying, stomach acid, and high levels of salt, not to mention living on a person without causing any symptoms.

Staph skin infections can be relatively minor, although they can reach the bloodstream and spread if left untreated.

What are Symptoms of a Staph Infection?
Symptoms of staph skin infections include:

  • Boils: Boils are a pocket of pus that forms on the skin. They’re most common under the arms and around the groin or buttocks.
  • Impetigo: Impetigo is a painful, contagious rash that has large blisters which may ooze and crust over.
  • Cellulitis: Cellulitis can cause redness, swelling, sores, or oozing discharge.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome Usually affecting babies and children, toxins produced by a staph infection cause fever, rash, and blisters. When blisters break, an entire layer of skin is removed, which resembles a burn.


Above is an image and desription from mayoclinic.com.

What Antibiotics are Used for Staph Infections?

Antibiotics are generally required for treating staph infections. Thanks to the rising problem with antibiotic-resistant staph, also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), antibiotics that were commonly used for staph infections are no longer effective.

Some antibiotics still used to treat staph infections include:

  • Cephalosporins
  • Nafcillin
  • Sulfa
  • Vancomycin

Bacterial Wound Infection

A wound is an opportunity for bacteria and other microorganisms to enter your body and cause problems like inflammation and tissue damage. An infection can start in a wound within a couple of days. The risk of infection is present until the wound heals.

What are Symptoms of a Wound infection?
Wounds should look and feel better as time goes on. If a wound looks or feels worse, it is likely infected. Specific symptoms of wound infection include:

  • Skin around the wound is red or hot
  • Swelling
  • Oozing pus (a yellowish liquid)
  • Redness may spread to other areas, often in streaks
  • Aches, pains, or fever
  • Malaise

What Antibiotics are Used for Bacterial Wound Infections?

Doctors frequently prescribe antibiotics for wound infection, including:

  • Amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin, Augmentin-Duo)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Clindamycin (Cleocin)
  • Dicloxacillin
  • Doxycycline (Doryx)
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra)

To get antibiotics for your bacterial skin infection you can book an online video appointment with a world-class doctor here

Preventing Skin Infections

The best way to prevent a skin infection is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Other ways to prevent skin infections include:

  • Use a clean towel between bare skin and shared surfaces like exercise equipment
  • Avoid contact with things that may be contaminated
  • Avoid sharing things like towels, washcloths, soap, razors, toothbrushes, or other personal products
  • Don’t reuse bath towels
  • Use flip flops in shared showers
  • If you have a break a in your skin take extra care to wash it with soap and water
  • Use a bandaid to protect open wounds and change the bandaid every few hours or when it gets wet

Antibiotics for skin infection

Antibiotics are only useful against bacterial skin infections like cellulitis or impetigo.

Antibiotics that a doctor may choose to prescribe for a bacterial skin infection include:

  • Cephalosporins
  • Dicloxacillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Vancomycin
  • Linezolid
  • Doxycycline

If you would like to speak with an online doctor about your skin infection, book an appointment here. Our doctors can diagnose and prescribe medication via phone or computer.

Read More About Antibiotics For Skin Infection

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Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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