Boils, also called furuncles, is a painful skin infection which begins in the hair follicles, and grow in size to a lump which then begins to ooze with pus in 4 to 7 days. If the infection spreads inwards deeper into the skin tissues, it is then known as an abscess. Although boils are not contagious, the staph bacteria that cause them can spread easily through skin to skin contact or through other objects.
The symptoms usually start with redness, pain and swelling. The lump slowly gets filled with pus as indicated by a white or yellow tip and may be accompanied with fever. Boils are commonly found on the face, neck, elbows, armpits, shoulders or buttocks.
Boils are caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus. Though staph bacteria is normally present on the skin, it would cause a problem only when it enters the body through tiny cuts or scrapes on the skin, insect bites or some other skin conditions.
Other factors known to increase the occurrence of boils are diabetes, immune deficiency, poor nutrition, exposure to certain chemicals, etc.
Home remedies include heat application to the affected area, as heat improves the blood circulation and helps reduce the infection. Alternatively, a boil can be drained once it becomes soft. Care should be taken not to drain a boil when it is still hard, as it can be very painful. However, the pain is greatly reduced when the boil is drained of pus.
A person experiencing fever with boils must consult a dermatologist. Also people seeking treatment for medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis or cancer treatment must seek medical care if they develop boils.
Boils can easily spread to different parts of the body without proper care.
- Boils should be covered with clean bandages at all times
- Maintain good hygiene – wash your hands thoroughly after contact with a boil or after applying bandages
- Wash your clothes and other bedding in hot water and either sundry or use high heat in your dryer setting
- Use a combination of bleach and hot water to clean any surfaces, wooden furniture or flooring, to prevent spreading the bacteria
- Do not share personal items like toiletries, towels or utensils with anyone.