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Other Names:
Furuncle, Infection of the Hair Follicle
Boil

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Definition

Boil is an infection of the hair follicle and the tissue surrounding it. Boils can be single or multiple and extremely painful if they occur in areas like the ear canal or nose. Boils can develop close and join together, in a characteristic condition called carbunculosis. Boils may occur in the hair follicles anywhere on the body, but the most common site is on the face, neck, armpit, buttocks and thighs.

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Causes

  • Staphylococcus bacteria that are normally found on the skin surface.
  • Other bacteria or fungi may also cause this infection.

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Symptoms

  • Tender, red nodule (bump) under the skin.
  • The nodule becomes painful, fluctuant and feels like a water or pus filled balloon.
  • A boil may drain spontaneously, releasing pus.

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Implications

In severe cases, especially in people with diabetes, HIV and AIDS and people receiving cancer chemotherapy, the bacteria from a boil can enter your bloodstream and travel to other parts of your body. The spreading of infection takes place via the blood stream, commonly known as septicemia, can spread rapidly and become life-threatening or fatal.

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What You Can Do

  • Incision and drainage of a large boil may be indicated; this will reduce pain and allow better penetration of topical antibiotics medications.

  • Topical application of antibiotic creams or ointments.

  • Oral antibiotics in severe cases

  • Good attention to personal hygiene is very necessary.Wash your hands thoroughly after treating a boil, and launder clothing, towels or compresses that have touched the infected area.

  • Use antibacterial soaps and antiseptic hand washes

  • Apply a warm, saltwater compress to the affected area every few hours. This helps the boil to rupture and drain quickly.

  • Gently wash the boil twice a day, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic and cover with a bandage.

  • Prevention
    • Thoroughly clean even small cuts and scrapes with soap and water and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as neosporin or polysporin. This is especially important for diabetics and immune compromised individuals
    • Eat a well balanced and nutritious diet consisting of whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and small amounts of lean protein (meat).

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Boil