What are Boils?
Boils are skin abscesses that are a collection of pus on the skin. It starts in the hair follicles or oil glands. The skin will turn red, and a lump that is tender will develop. It will turn white in 4 to 7 days, as pus begins to form. They will become more painful until they rupture and drain. The most common places for boils to form are the face, armpits, shoulders, neck, and buttocks. They usually form where sweat is likely to form or there is friction. If a boil forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty. Boils are not contagious, however the bacteria that forms the boil is.
What Causes Boils?
There are many causes of boils. Poor hygiene can cause a boil, as can diabetes. Those with problems with the immune system are more susceptible to boils. Poor nutrition could also lead to boils. Exposure to harsh chemicals can also make a boil form.
Boils usually start out about half an inch in size as a lump on the skin. Within 48 hours or so, the lump becomes larger, softer and much more painful. A pocket of pus will form. If a severe infection takes place one will notice that the skin around the boil has become infected. It will be painful to the touch, warm, red and swollen. More boils may appear around the original boil. The lymph nodes may become swollen and a fever could be present. You will need to seek medical assistance if you start running a fever, have the swollen lymph nodes, the pain becomes very severe, the boil will not drain, another boil or boils appear, or if you have a heart murmur, diabetes, have immune system troubles, or are using immune suppressing drugs. Also seek medical attention for a boil if you are in poor health or have chills with a fever.
Home treatment for a boil includes applying a warm compress or soaking the boil in warm water. This will draw the pus to the surface of the boil and also bring relief to it. When the boil has come to a head, it will burst. When it does burst, it will have repeated drainings. Once it has drained, wash well with an antibacterial soap, and then clean with rubbing alcohol. Then apply a topical ointment and bandage. One can also continue on with the warm compresses a few times daily. The area should be washed two to three times a day. Never pop a boil yourself. This could make the boil worse and lead to an infection. If a boil does need to be popped, have a doctor lance it. The doctor will make a small incision at the tip of the boil. If an infection can not be completely be drained, it may be packed with sterile gauze to help soak up the pus.
Tea tree oil can be applied to a boil. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic that can heal boils. Do note that tea tree oil can cause an allergic reaction to some, so take caution using it.
If a boil is severe, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. A culture may be done to see what type of bacteria caused the infection .
After treating a boil, make sure to wash hands well with soap and water. Make sure to wash all bedding and towels that have touched the boils.
It is not always possible to prevent a boil from happening, but there are a few things that you can do to try and prevent them. Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, and razors. Wash hands frequently, and keep all wounds covered until they have healed.