Boils are complete individual hair follicles that build up with pus and dead tissue caused by a staphylococcus infection.
These nodules are most often referred to as boils, but there are alternative names for this same condition that include:
- Infection of the hair follicle
- Hair Follicle Infection
- Skin Abscesses – this can include a variety of skin infection conditions.
A boil usually begins as a tender, swollen nodule that is ranges from the size of a pea to around the size of a golf ball. It has a feeling similar to a water filled balloon. The outer skin area around the boil is pinkish to red in color.
As the boil fills with pus and dead tissue, the nodule becomes more painful. A white or yellow center, also known as a pustules, develops. When the boil begins to drain, it may appear to weep, ooze or even crust over. The pain will get better as the pressure is released when the boil drains. If a boil does not drain on its own, it may be necessary for a patient or medical professional to make an opening in the boil themselves.
Some other symptoms that may occur when a patient has a boil includes
- A feeling of fatigue or severe tiredness
- A fever that can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the infection within the boil and the stage the boil is at.
- An overall ill feeling
- Severe itching in the area prior to any visible signs of a boil being present.
- A redness in the surrounding skin of the boil and inflammation.
Boils are a very common skin infection that are generally caused when a staphylococcus infection that is present on the skin enters into the tissue of the skin through a damaged hair follicle. Damage to the hair follicle can be caused by an ingrown hair, cut, scrape, injury, underlying medical condition or by an object piercing the skin, such as a gunshot, stabbing, ect. Boils can occur within any area of the body that has hair follicles.
Most patients report boils in or around:
- The face
- In the armpit areas
- On the back of the neck
- Within the buttocks area
- On the inside of the thighs
- In the groin area
- On the inside of their nasal passage, especially true in diabetic patients
Anyone can be at risk for developing a boil. This is especially true for a person who has come into contact with someone who has had a boil or have come in direct contact with the infection that is within a boil. There are, however, certain groups that are at a higher risk of developing boils.
People with a compromised immune system. A person who has a weak or compromised immune system are unable to fight off infections adequately and are unable to heal properly.
This includes people with mild, temporary conditions, such as the flu, colds, allergies or other minor health conditions. Their bodies are already working overtime to fight the virus or infection that afflicting other parts of their body.
It also includes people who have more severe medical conditions that have left their immune system weak and vulnerable, such as an AIDS patient, HIV patients or cancer patients.
Patients who have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Diabetics have a difficult time healing from illnesses or injuries that they may have suffered. They do not fight off infections, heal infections or mend very easily due to their diabetes disease. That is why it is especially important for diabetic patients to practice pristine personal hygiene techniques and seek medical treatment immediately for any boils that do occur.
A person who has been in contact with someone who has boils or comes in contact with the infection that causes boils. When someone within your home has boils, special precautions should be taken to eliminate the transfer of the infection from one person to another.
You should make sure that all towels, washcloths and bedding are washed in boiling hot water to kill any of the germs or bacteria that may be present. Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer should be a common practice within the home while the staphylococcus infection is present. It is also possible to come in contact with the infection if you use public restrooms, share clothing with a person who has boils or even have hand to hand contact if you do not wash your hands prior to touching any part of your body.
Hygiene & Nutrition
People who have poor hygiene or a poor level of nutrition. Whenever proper personal hygiene habits are not practiced it leaves a huge opportunity for a person to contact a variety of illnesses, viruses or infections. It is important to bathe or shower regularly using an antibacterial soap or shower gel.
This will help to eliminate germs and bacteria that may be growing on your skin and get into any damaged hair follicles you may have on your body. It is also important to make sure that a person has proper nutritional practices. People who suffer from weight and nutritional issues are at a higher risk of developing boils because their bodies are not able to properly fight off infections.
This includes people who are obese, have anorexia or suffer from bulimia. If a person knows how they are at risk and make lifestyle changes, their risk for developing boils can be decreased.
People who suffer from other skin ailments. People who suffer from skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, dermatitis, rashes or even sunburns, have an increased chance of developing boils. This is due to the fact that their skin is damaged and weak which allows infections and viruses to enter the tissue easier.
In most cases, boils will develop quickly and drain on their own. If you have a boil that is not draining, then you should seek the assistance from a physician or other medical professional.
Some complications that can arise from boils include
- Abscesses that can develop on the skin, brain, kidneys, spinal cord or other vital organs.
- Infection within the brain.
- The inside lining of the heart chambers or heart valves can become swollen and inflamed, which is a condition known as Endocarditis.
- The development of Osteomyelitis, which is an infection that gets into a person’s bones.
- Permanent scars and marking from damage inflicted to the skin where a boil was located.
- An infection in the blood caused by bacteria building up in the blood stream.
- Infection that gets into the spinal cord.
- The spread of the infection from one part of the body to another.
- These complications range from mild and temporary to more serious cases that can cause permanent damage up to and including the death of a patient.
Regardless of any degree of preventative measures a person takes to decrease their chances of developing boils, there is no fool proof plan to completely eliminate the possibility of getting a boil.
Some things that can be done to help prevent a person’s chances of getting a boil are to
- Practice good personal hygiene. Shower and bathe regularly using an antibiotic soap of shower gel.
- Wash hands frequently. Using hot water and antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer, wash your hands often.
- Wash clothing with special measures. Using the hottest water temperature setting and a good detergent, make sure all clothing or beddings and linens used by a person within the home who has boils is washed. If possible wash these items separately from other household members clothing items.
- Practice proper nutritional habits. To keep your body in its best shape to fight infections and bacteria, eat properly and control your weight related health issues.
- Try to eliminate the use of public restrooms if possible. When it is possible, do not use public restrooms. These places are breeding grounds for a large variety of viruses, bacteria and infections because you cannot control who has used them prior to you.
- Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer helps you reduce the chances of coming in contact with the staphylococcus infection that causes boils. When you cannot wash your hands the sanitizer can be substituted.
- Properly treat any cuts, scrapes or injuries. Since pre-existing cuts, scrapes and injuries can become infected, it is important to treat them right away to prevent your body from becoming susceptible to secondary viruses and infections.
Test and Diagnosis Considerations
When diagnosing a patient who has a boil, doctors and health care professionals usually just conduct a visual inspection of the swollen nodule for redness, inflammation, heat and visible characteristics. Samples of the pus can be tested to determine if there is a secondary infection that is of concern.
However, extensive testing is only usually conducted if there is a serious risk of a more severe infection or if the area is not healing correctly. A physician or other medical professional may conduct a biopsy of the swollen nodule that continuously develops to rule out any type of underlying medical condition or disease.
There are a variety of different treatment options that people use when treating a boil. Some people prefer to use one of many home remedies that may have been passed down through generations and has provided results. Other patients prefer to use over the counter medications and remedies that may be available on pharmacy shelves.
Doctors and medical professionals also have medical procedures that they can perform to help provide relief and comfort for patients who have boils that may not be draining on their own, or the person themselves suffer from other health conditions that make it necessary to seek immediate treatment for any infection within their system.
Over the Counter Remedies
Topical Antibiotic Ointments
There are a variety of topical antibiotic ointments available to help people who have boils find some relief from the pain. These ointments help to ripen the boil and help bring drainage of the infection within the boil outward. Some of the brand names of these ointments include Boil Ease, Drawing Salve and Neosporin. A patient can also use any name brand of Triple Antibiotic Ointment to produce the same results.
Bactine is an over the counter spray that can be used on a boil to help it from becoming too large and helps to bring some relief from the pain associated with the boil. A person can apply the spray to the boil once in the morning and once at night until the boil is completely gone.
Apply Campho Phenique to a piece of gauze that is large enough to cover the boil and the affected skin around it. Using some pressure place the piece of gauze over the boil and hold in place for five minutes. A person will see noticeable results within this time. It is okay to leave this gauze in place over night to see even better results for the boil.
Using water that is as hot as can be tolerated without scalding the skin, run a bath. Pour in one half to one cup of Epsom salt around the bottom of the tub. Soak in this bath for a minimum of thirty minutes each day until the boil is completely gone.
The hot water and salt mixture will help out infection that is within the boil. Make sure that the towels, wash clothes and clothing that the person uses is washed properly and separately from other people’s clothing items. It is also recommended to wash out the tub using antiseptic cleaners before being used by anyone else.
Medical Treatments and Procedures
Doctors and medical professionals can lance the boil to help drain the staphylococcus infection. This can bring about relief from the built up pressure associated with the boil. It may also be necessary to have a doctor do this if you are suffering from a boil that will not drain on its own.
Doctors can prescribe antibiotics that are designed to fight off staphylococcus infections. This is a recommended treatment plan for people who suffer from another serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and low immune systems.
Home Remedies and Natural Cures
Onion and Garlic Juice
Using the juices from an onion and clove of garlic, mix them together. Apply this juice mixture to the boil and surrounding skin area. This will help to ripen the boil and help it to drain in a very short period of time. This juice mixture should be applied two to four times a day.
Baking Soda Paste
Mix some baking soda with some water until a paste like material is formed. Apply the paste mixture directly on the boil and affected skin area. This paste mixture will help to draw out the infection within the boil and start promoting the healing of the boil right away.
Grind Cumin seed in water, mixing well to for a paste like substance. Apply the paste to the boil and surrounding skin. Cover with gauze and leave on overnight. This can be repeated until the boil is completely gone.
Pour a small amount of vinegar on a gauze pad and cover the entire boil and surrounding skin with the gauze pad. Leave on the boil over night. This will help to ripen the boil and cause the drainage of the infection within the boil. Repeat this as necessary until the boil is completely gone.
Turmeric and Castor Oil Paste
For anyone who suffers from painful boils on the inside of the nose, these can be very difficult to treat. One effective method for doing this is to create a paste with turmeric powder and castor oil. Mix the two together until a paste is formed. Using a cotton swab dipped in the paste, apply to the inside of the nose on the boil. This will help bring about healing and help to eliminate some of the pain associated with the boil.