Boils: Signs, Causes, Remedies, and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

A boil is a localized skin abscess often caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. It’s characterized by a painful, swollen lump on the skin. A boil will start out as a hard, red lump. Over the next few days, the lump will expand in size. That’s because white blood cells, body liquid, and blood will fill the protrusion. As the boil grows, the pain will intensify.

Eventually, the center of the boil will soften. When the pus forms on the top-most part of the boil, it will spontaneously drain itself. Once the pus is removed, the affected area heals. Boils can appear anywhere in the body. But they are common around the buttocks, trunk, and legs.

While an occasional boil should not be a cause of concern, the appearance of several boils needs to be checked. This condition is called carbuncle. It’s a serious infection that requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Boils

Symptoms of a boil include fever, swollen lymph nodes and occasional bumps to other parts of the body. The bumps could develop into boils as well.

If you start developing fever or if red streaks develop on the skin around the boil, have it checked. If the boil becomes too large and it won’t drain, have a physician check the lump too.

Causes of Boils

A boil is often caused by bacterial exposure. This occurs when you accidentally cut or scrape yourself. If the affected area was not washed thoroughly, the wound becomes infected. There are cases wherein splinter or plugged sweat glands lead to skin abscesses.

People afflicted with diabetes or have weak immune system are the most vulnerable to this skin infection. Poor hygiene, poor diet and exposure to certain chemicals could also cause boils.

Treatment for Boils

Over the counter painkillers and antibiotics are the usual treatment for skin abscesses. However, antibiotics are recommended only if the infection is severe. Your doctor could also drain the boil and analyze the pus to determine what bacteria caused the infection.

Once the boil is drained, keep the area sanitized and dry. Start by cleaning the wound with an antiseptic solution. Then, apply a topical antibacterial ointment. Dress the affected area with a bandage. If you feel a re-infection, have your doctor check the wound again.

Home Remedies

Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress over the boil will reduce pain and swelling. It will also soften the skin, allowing the boil to drain on its own.

Antibacterial Soap

If the boil bursts, wash the affected area with antibacterial soap. Pat the affected area dry. Once the area is clean, apply an antiseptic solution or rubbing alcohol. Finish up with an antibacterial ointment then dress the wound.

Factors to Consider

Resist the urge to pop the boil using a needle. If the needle is dirty or rusty, it could cause even worse infection. It’s best to wait until the boil develops further and it’s ready to be drained. This occurs 10 days after its appearance. Do not fuss with the boil or attempt to self-medicate. Let a health expert handle the infection with the right tools.


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