A boil is a common, painful infection of a hair follicle and the surrounding skin. It begins as a red lump, then fills with pus as white blood cells rush in to fight the infection. Good home care can often clear up a single boil, also known as a skin abscess. A doctor's care is needed when a boil resists treatment or develops in certain vulnerable areas of the body.
Boils (furuncles) usually start as red, tender bumps. The bumps quickly fill with pus, growing larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. Areas most likely to be affected are the face, back of the neck, armpits, thighs and buttocks.
You can usually care for a single boil at home. But don't attempt to prick or squeeze it — that may spread the infection.
Signs and symptoms of a boil usually include:
A painful, red bump that starts out small and can enlarge to more than 2 inches (5 centimeters)
- Red, swollen skin around the bump
An increase in the size of the bump over a few days as it fills with pus
Development of a yellow-white tip that eventually ruptures and allows the pus to drain out
A number of solutions can help relieve the symptoms of skin abscesses.
Applying a warm face cloth for 10 minutes a few times a day may help speed up the healing process. Heat draws more blood, and so more whites cells, to the affected area and encourages pore dilation and release of pus.
It is important to wash the hands thoroughly after touching the site and to avoid squeezing a furuncle or carbuncle, as this increases the risk of spreading infection.
Experts say patients should not try to burst or squeeze furuncles or carbuncles. If the lesion is very painful, if it lasts for more than 2 weeks, or if there is a fever, you should see your doctor.
The bacteria from boils is contagious, so steps should be taken to reduce the risk of them recurring or spreading.
Tips for prevention include:
- Maintaining good personal hygiene, such sa bathing regularly and washing hands with soap and water
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, particularly after touching the boil
avoiding sharing personal items, such as towels, linen, or razors
- Keeping surfaces clean, such as counters, door knobs, bath tubs, and toilet seats
Decolonization may be recommended for households with recurrent MRSA infections to help prevent future infections. This goal of this process is to reduce the amount of MRSA bacteria carried on the skin.
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