Bob VogelQ. I’m 49 and in my 24th year as a T9 complete para. Over the last eight years I’ve been hospitalized three times with cellulitis in my right leg. The first two times I noticed it during my daily “mirror skin check”— a bright red area, warm to the touch, like a bad rash. The first time it started around a small burn on my foot.  The second one started where I had clipped a toenail too short and it bled.

In both instances the red area was spreading outward and getting larger by the hour, so I went to the emergency room. Each time I was admitted to the hospital and put on IV antibiotics. Within a few days of treatment the skin returned to its normal color, and I was released and put on a course of oral antibiotics.
In my latest bout my foot was slightly swollen, and I had a small area of warm, red skin near a tiny crack of athlete’s foot by my little toe. Within hours I developed intense shivers, my entire body hurt, I spiked a fever of 104 and was puking. I thought I had a major urinary tract infection and headed to the ER.

The ER doc looked at my lower leg, now red, hot and swollen, and said, “cellulitis.” He admitted me to the hospital, where I got an IV PICC line. It took seven days of heavy antibiotics before I felt better and the swelling went down.

This last time really knocked the stuffing out of me. Does SCI make me more susceptible to cellulitis? What can I do to avoid it?
— Tom

A. Tom, although an Internet search of studies on cellulitis and SCI came up pretty thin, it seems to be a common pitfall among wheelers — I’ve had a few battles with it myself.

Cellulitis is a common and potentially serious bacterial skin infection that can rapidly spread throughout the body. It occurs when one or more types of bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin — a scratch, burn, insect bite, cracked dry skin, athlete’s foot, pressure sore, ingrown toenail, etc. It most commonly affects the lower legs, but can occur anywhere on the body.