Medscape is available in 5 Language Editions – Choose your Edition here.


Erysipelas Medication

  • Author: Loretta Davis, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 29, 2016

Medication Summary

Antibiotics should be started as soon as possible in patients with erysipelas. As previously stated, streptococci cause most cases of the disease; thus, penicillin has remained a first-line therapy.[17, 18] A first-generation cephalosporin or macrolide, such as erythromycin or azithromycin, may be used if the patient has an allergy to penicillin.

Antipyretics and analgesics may help to alleviate symptoms; these drugs ensure patient comfort and have sedating properties beneficial to patients who have sustained trauma or who experience pain.



Class Summary

Penicillin is the standard therapy for typical erysipelas, although coverage for Staphylococcus aureus should be considered in the appropriate setting.

Penicillin VK


Penicillin G procaine (Wycillin) and penicillin VK (PenVeeK) are currently recommended as first-line agents for the treatment of moderately severe infections of skin and skin structure. In adults, administer penicillin G procaine by deep intramuscular injection only into upper, outer quadrant of buttock. In infants and small children, the midlateral aspect of the thigh may be a better site for administration.



Dicloxacillin, used in the treatment of infections caused by penicillinase-producing staphylococci, is a penicillinase-resistant penicillin that will cover possible S aureus.



Nafcillin is the initial therapy for suspected penicillin G ̶ resistant streptococcal or staphylococcal infections. Use parenteral therapy initially in severe infections, and change to oral therapy as the condition warrants.

Because nafcillin may cause thrombophlebitis at the injection site, particularly in elderly patients, administer parenterally only for a short term (1-2 d); change to oral administration as clinically indicated.

Cephalexin (Keflex)


Cephalexin is a first-generation cephalosporin that inhibits bacterial growth by inhibiting bacterial cell wall synthesis. This agent is bactericidal and is effective against rapidly growing organisms forming cell walls. Cephalexin is an acceptable alternative to penicillin and may be useful in patients with minor penicillin allergies.

Erythromycin (Ery-Tab, PCE, Erythrocin)


Erythromycin is a macrolide used for penicillin-allergic individuals. It inhibits bacterial growth, possibly by blocking dissociation of peptidyl transfer ribonucleic acid (t-RNA) from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest. Erythromycin is administered for the treatment of staphylococcal and streptococcal infections.

In children, age, weight, and severity of infection determine proper dosage. When twice-daily dosing is desired, half of the total daily dose may be taken every 12 hours. For more severe infections, double the dose.

Azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax)


Azithromycin acts by binding to the 50S ribosomal subunit of susceptible microorganisms and blocks dissociation of peptidyl tRNA from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest. Nucleic acid synthesis is not affected.

Azithromycin concentrates in phagocytes and fibroblasts as demonstrated by in vitro incubation techniques. In vivo studies suggest that its concentration in phagocytes may contribute to drug distribution to inflamed tissues.

Azithromycin treats mild-to-moderate microbial infections. Plasma concentrations are very low, but tissue concentrations are much higher, giving it value in treating intracellular organisms. It has a long tissue half-life, which allows for once-daily dosing for skin and soft-tissue infections.

Clindamycin (Cleocin, Cleocin Pediatric, ClindaMax Vaginal)


Clindamycin is a lincosamide for the treatment of serious skin and soft-tissue staphylococcal infections. It is also effective against aerobic and anaerobic streptococci (except enterococci). Clindamycin inhibits bacterial growth, possibly by blocking dissociation of peptidyl tRNA from ribosomes, causing RNA-dependent protein synthesis to arrest. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea is a potential adverse effect.



Class Summary

Pain control is essential to quality patient care. Analgesics and antipyretics ensure patient comfort, promote pulmonary toilet, and have sedating properties beneficial to patients who have sustained trauma or who experience pain.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Aspirin Free Anacin, APAP 500, Acephen, FeverAll)


This is the drug of choice (DOC) for treating pain in patients with documented hypersensitivity to aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), who are diagnosed with upper gastrointestinal disease, or who take oral anticoagulants.

Codeine/acetaminophen (Tylenol with Codeine No. 3)


Codeine/acetaminophen is used for the treatment of mild to moderate pain.

Hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen (Vicodin ES, Lortab, Zydone, Norco)


This combination is used for the relief of moderate to severe pain.

Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet, Magnacet)


The combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen is used for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It is the DOC for aspirin-hypersensitive patients.

Aspirin (Ascriptin Regular Strength, Bayer Aspirin, Aspirtab, Ecotrin)


Aspirin blocks prostaglandin synthetase action, which in turn inhibits prostaglandin synthesis and prevents the formation of platelet-aggregating thromboxane A2; it acts on the hypothalamic heat-regulating center to reduce fever.

Ibuprofen (Addaprin, Advil, Motrin, Caldolor, Dyspel)


Ibuprofen is usually the DOC for treating mild to moderate pain, if no contraindications exist. It is one of the few NSAIDs indicated for fever reduction.

Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve, Naprelan, Anaprox)


Naproxen is used for the relief of mild to moderate pain. It inhibits inflammatory reactions and pain by decreasing COX activity, which results in decreased prostaglandin synthesis.



Ketoprofen is used for relief of mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Small dosages are indicated initially in small patients, elderly patients, and patients with renal or liver disease. Doses higher than 75 mg do not increase the therapeutic effects. Administer high doses with caution, and closely observe the patient's response.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Loretta Davis, MD Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Dermatology, Medical College of Georgia

Loretta Davis, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


John A Cole, MD Dermatologist, Private Practice, Valdosta, GA

John A Cole, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Keith Benbenisty, MD Consulting Staff, Associates in Dermatology, MDs, PA

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francis Counselman, MD Program Director, Chair, Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Francis Counselman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Emergency Physicians, Association of Academic Chairs of Emergency Medicine (AACEM), Norfolk Academy of Medicine, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Eddy S Lang, MDCM, CCFP(EM), CSPQ Associate Professor, Senior Researcher, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, University of Calgary; Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University

Eddy S Lang, MDCM, CCFP(EM), CSPQ is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Christen M Mowad, MD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Geisinger Medical Center

Christen M Mowad, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Dermatological Association, Noah Worcester Dermatological Society, Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology, and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH Professor and Head, Dermatology, Professor of Pathology, Pediatrics, Medicine, and Preventive Medicine and Community Health, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, New York Academy of Medicine, and Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Reference Salary Employment

Michael J Wells, MD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, and Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

  1. Bonnetblanc JM, Bedane C. Erysipelas: recognition and management. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003. 4(3):157-63. [Medline].

  2. Bernard P. Management of common bacterial infections of the skin. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2008 Apr. 21(2):122-8. [Medline].

  3. Matz H, Orion E, Wolf R. Bacterial infections: uncommon presentations. Clin Dermatol. 2005 Sep-Oct. 23 (5):503-8. [Medline].

  4. Krasagakis K, Samonis G, Maniatakis P, Georgala S, Tosca A. Bullous erysipelas: clinical presentation, staphylococcal involvement and methicillin resistance. Dermatology. 2006. 212(1):31-5. [Medline].

  5. Jorup-Ronstrom C. Epidemiological, bacteriological and complicating features of erysipelas. Scand J Infect Dis. 1986. 18(6):519-24. [Medline].

  6. Vignes S, Dupuy A. Recurrence of lymphoedema-associated cellulitis (erysipelas) under prophylactic antibiotherapy: a retrospective cohort study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006 Aug. 20(7):818-22. [Medline].

  7. Pereira de Godoy JM, Azoubel LM, Guerreiro Godoy Mde F. Erysipelas and lymphangitis in patients undergoing lymphedema treatment after breast-cancer therapy. Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Panonica Adriat. 2009 Jun. 18(2):63-5. [Medline].

  8. Damstra RJ, van Steensel MA, Boomsma JH, Nelemans P, Veraart JC. Erysipelas as a sign of subclinical primary lymphoedema: a prospective quantitative scintigraphic study of 40 patients with unilateral erysipelas of the leg. Br J Dermatol. 2008 Jun. 158(6):1210-5. [Medline].

  9. Ellis H. The last year before the dawn of antibiotics. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2009 Aug. 70(8):475. [Medline].

  10. Pereira de Godoy JM, Galacini Massari P, Yoshino Rosinha M, Marinelli Brandão R, Foroni Casas AL. Epidemiological data and comorbidities of 428 patients hospitalized with erysipelas. Angiology. 2010 Jul. 61(5):492-4. [Medline].

  11. Morris AD. Cellulitis and erysipelas. Clin Evid (Online). 2008 Jan 2. 2008:[Medline]. [Full Text].

  12. Gunderson CG, Chang JJ. Risk of deep vein thrombosis in patients with cellulitis and erysipelas: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thromb Res. 2013 Sep. 132(3):336-40. [Medline].

  13. Coste N, Perceau G, Leone J, et al. Osteoarticular complications of erysipelas. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 Feb. 50(2):203-9. [Medline].

  14. Bien P, De Anda C, Prokocimer P. Comparison of Digital Planimetry and Ruler Technique To Measure ABSSSI Lesion Sizes in the ESTABLISH-1 Study. Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2014 Apr. 15(2):105-10. [Medline].

  15. Grosshans EM. The red face: erysipelas. Clin Dermatol. 1993 Apr-Jun. 11(2):307-13. [Medline].

  16. Leppard BJ, Seal DV, Colman G, Hallas G. The value of bacteriology and serology in the diagnosis of cellulitis and erysipelas. Br J Dermatol. 1985 May. 112(5):559-67. [Medline].

  17. Bishara J, Golan-Cohen A, Robenshtok E, Leibovici L, Pitlik S. Antibiotic use in patients with erysipelas: a retrospective study. Isr Med Assoc J. 2001 Oct. 3(10):722-4. [Medline].

  18. Vos MD, Bos RR, Vissink A. [A sudden redness and swelling of the face]. Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd. 2009 Jul. 116(7):383-6. [Medline].

  19. Phares CR, Lynfield R, Farley MM, Mohle-Boetani J, Harrison LH, Petit S, et al. Epidemiology of invasive group B streptococcal disease in the United States, 1999-2005. JAMA. 2008 May 7. 299 (17):2056-65. [Medline].

  20. Bernard P, Plantin P, Roger H, et al. Roxithromycin versus penicillin in the treatment of erysipelas in adults: a comparative study. Br J Dermatol. 1992 Aug. 127(2):155-9. [Medline].

  21. Oh CC, Ko HC, Lee HY, Safdar N, Maki DG, Chlebicki MP. Antibiotic prophylaxis for preventing recurrent cellulitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Infect. 2014 Feb 24. [Medline].

  22. Sjoblom AC, Eriksson B, Jorup-Ronstrom C, Karkkonen K, Lindqvist M. Antibiotic prophylaxis in recurrent erysipelas. Infection. 1993 Nov-Dec. 21(6):390-3. [Medline].

  23. [Guideline] Stevens DL, Bisno AL, Chambers HF, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the infectious diseases society of america. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Jul 15. 59(2):e10-52. [Medline]. [Full Text].

Well-demarcated, erythematous plaque of erysipelas. Courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Facial erysipelas exhibiting classic fiery-red plaque with raised, well-demarcated borders.
All material on this website is protected by copyright, Copyright © 1994-2016 by WebMD LLC. This website also contains material copyrighted by 3rd parties.