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Boils

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A large, painful, pimple-like infection of a hair follicle.


Also called

Furuncles

Affected areas

Common locations are the face, neck, buttocks, groin and armpits.

Symptoms

  • A small portion of the skin initially becomes tender, red and swollen before forming a painful bump and then developing a white or yellow head
  • Eventually, even without intervention, the boil ruptures and allows the pus to drain away. Boils can range in severity and the factors below should be taken into consideration
  • Clusters of boils known as carbuncles have multiple heads
  • A more serious infection can result if the infection is able to penetrate into deeper tissues, and in some cases can be life-threatening
  • If boils are severe or frequent it is advisable to seek medical advice immediately and especially when a boil is located near the eyes or nose as it is important to prevent the infection spreading to the brain
  • A scar may remain after the tissue has healed

Causes

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which is normally present on our skin and in many cases in our nostrils, causes the infection known as a boil. Although generally harmless, ‘golden staph’, as it is known, can sometimes infect the skin.

Risk factors for developing boils include:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Poor nutritional status and as a consequence, depleted immunity
  • Broken skin from a variety of causes including scrapes and scratches, or skin problems such as eczema
  • Diabetes, in particular when the condition is poorly controlled

Diet and lifestyle

Learning to make a hot compress, a traditional method of relieving the pain of boils, is essential and this can be used to draw out pus, fight infection and encourage healing:
  • Heat water to boiling for 10-15 minutes to make sure it is sterile, and then cool until no longer hot enough to burn but still able to apply heat to the boil
  • Soak cotton pads or sterile fabric in the water and then place the hot compress over the boil until it cools down
  • Repeat the process for ten minutes at a time, three times per day, until the boil comes to a head and bursts
  • It is important to discard the used compresses thoughtfully as they have been in contact with infectious matter
  • Once your hot compress is completed, cover the burst boil with a Band-Aid to prevent further infection from occurring

Here are some other lifestyle and dietary factors will help deter the condition and may lessen the severity of the infection:

  • Good hygiene is essential. Wash your hands with warm water and antiseptic soap frequently and avoid touching the boil at all times
  • It's advisable to bathe with antiseptic soap, and make sure to use fresh towels every time you dry the area of the boil. Change your bedding as frequently as possible too
  • Apply tea tree oil, this has documented antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, and may help to fight infection
  • Never burst or lance a boil yourself, doing so may spread the infection. A boil should normally burst on its own when it is ready to do so. See your doctor if it doesn't burst within a few days of its arrival; the boil may need to be lanced and drained by a healthcare professional

Important notes

See your doctor if your boils are recurring. This may be a symptom of diabetes or, if already with the condition, may indicate that your blood sugar level is not in control.

Work with your healthcare professional to manage these issues as this may help to reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

Get free personalised advice from our team of qualified naturopaths here

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whats the best cure for boils, my family member has groin boils and it seems to be spreading and very painful.Please give me some cure before it gets worse.
Anonymous
Anonymous 29 Jul 2013