Cellulitis Alert Cards - Update

Cellulitis Alert Cards – Update

This article is taken from the Spring 2020 issue of LymphLine, the LSN’s quarterly newsletter available to all LSN members. For details of how to become a member, click here.

Many of you will remember that in Spring last year, we launched the production of new Cellulitis Alert cards, jointly produced by LSN and the British Lymphology Society (BLS) and with the help and guidance of Dr Kristiana Gordon, St. George’s Hospital, London.

One of the biggest challenges and fears faced by those living with lymphoedema is developing cellulitis, which usually starts as an infection in the skin
of the swollen limb, causing redness, heat, pain and is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms. If treated promptly, with the right antibiotics, for the correct amount of time, infection will clear up. If it is not treated either quickly enough or with the right antibiotics, it can make you really poorly and can often mean a stay in hospital with an antibiotic drip. If you only take antibiotics for a short period it may look as though it has cleared up, but then comes back. 


The other problem with cellulitis and lymphoedema is that the infection often does not ‘look’ or behave like cellulitis does in someone without lymphoedema. Furthermore, it can often get worse far quicker than in someone without lymphoedema. Once you have had cellulitis, you may well recognise the symptoms before your limb even starts to get red. Some people tell us that they ‘just know’ when it is brewing and within a few hours of feeling this way, sure enough, the limb gets red and hot. Others notice the signs early on when they are putting on their moisturiser or removing their garments. Our advice has always been to seek help as soon as you can, which is fine if you are able to get an appointment with your GP or if your practice knows you live with lymphoedema and are able to get you an emergency prescription. Some GPs will even allow you to have an ‘in case’ prescription at home. But what if you are away from home or it is outside surgery hours? It can be a real challenge to get A&E staff or out-of-hours GPs to take the situation seriously when you may not yet ‘look’ like you have cellulitis. We hear time and time again of people being sent home to watch and wait and ending up back in hospital, very poorly, within hours.

The Alert cards were included in the Spring 2019 copy of LymphLine, and the BLS carried out a mailing to NHS clinics in the UK. Feedback from this pilot run has been very positive and prompted us to want to produce more, thereby reaching more patients! The LSN is delighted that we are now in the position to fund further supplies of the card, due to some unexpected funding, and we will be carrying out our own mail-out to clinics, courtesy of our wonderful volunteer team. The cards will be free of charge during 2020 and should clinics require further supplies, order forms will be provided.