What are the Symptoms of Boils?
What to Expect
Symptoms and appearance of boils may include:
- Infected hair follicle
- Boil on skin
- Painful red skin swelling/lump
- Local lymph node swelling
- Pus head appears on the boil
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Bacterial infections, or the inflammation of one or more hair follicles, can result in the formation of a boil. They are usually painful and can be quite distressing, especially if they are recurring. A boil generally starts off as an inconspicuous pink and tender bump localized to one area. This soon develops into a firm, hard, inflamed lump that is filled with bacteria-fighting white blood cells and dead skin tissue (pus).
The affected area usually gets larger and more painful until the boil bursts and the pus is able to drain. While some boils disappear within a few days, many can take up to two weeks to heal, which can be very painful and frustrating.
Symptoms and appearance of boils may include:
Boils can occur anywhere on the skin, although they tend to develop on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks, or thighs. They also occur most frequently in areas containing hair and/or sweat glands, or in areas where chafing or recurrent friction occurs, thus a major cause of skin boils. In some cases, boils can occur in interconnected clusters called carbuncles. In severe cases, they can develop into abscesses.
While anyone can develop boils and carbuncles, people who have diabetes, a suppressed immune system, poor hygiene, acne, or other skin problems are at a higher risk.
Some examples of boils include:
Boils may be found on various parts of the body, including:
The main cause of skin boils is generally due to an infection of a hair follicle. This can occur for a number of different reasons.
Most boils can be adequately treated at home, and usually run their course and heal without medical attention. However, in some cases, you may need to visit a general health practitioner to avoid complications. Your doctor will simply examine the affected area to confirm diagnosis and generally no other diagnostic tests are necessary. Skin boil treatment is generally simple and can be managed at home.
For many babies, boils occur when their diaper rash becomes infected. You will be able to tell the difference between the diaper rash itself and a developing boil by the progression of a lump filled with white or yellow pus, which may or may not burst.
Older children usually develop boils from an infected hair or a cut. Though boils are treatable, for both babies and children boils can be very painful. A reason to become concerned is if your child develops a temperature, red streaks are coming from the lump, or your child has been diagnosed with an immune deficiency, which impedes proper healing.
There are a number of treatment and prevention options for boils ranging from old-home remedies passed down over the generations to medical interventions and surgery.
The one important thing to remember is that boils are most commonly related to low immune system functioning. By boosting the immune system, you’ll be able to prevent boils and recurrent infections.
Skin boil treatment administered by self-care is usually the only treatment needed, as these boils generally heal by themselves within 4 to 10 days. Healing can be expedited by applying a warm cloth to the area or soaking the boil in warm water. This should help to relieve some of the pain and encourage the pus to surface. Once the boil has drained, the area should be washed with antibacterial soap and kept bandaged and sterile, as the open wound may be susceptible to further infection. Special care should also be taken to prevent the spreading of the bacteria, which can be transmitted to other areas of the skin or to other people through the pus. You should not squeeze or attempt to pop a boil if it is hard and firm, as boils should only be drained once they have become soft or once a head has formed. It is recommended to leave the boil to burst on its own to reduce the spread of infection to other areas.
If the boil requires some medical intervention, your doctor may drain it by making a small incision on the tip of the boil. This will help speed up the recovery, reduce pressure and pain, and it helps to lessen scarring. If the infection is especially deep, a small amount of gauze can be placed over the boil so that it can continue to drain. In addition, a course of oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed to help rid you of severe or recurrent infections. If boils are a recurrent problem, your doctor may also suggest vitamin supplements (especially vitamin A and E) and tests may be done to determine if you have an underlying condition that may be compromising your immune system.
Surgery is one of the last measures taken to prevent recurrent boils. This may include the surgical removal of the sweat glands in the area of the skin that is frequently infected. Surgery is also sometimes necessary when trying to treat pilonidal cysts.
There are a number of herbal and homeopathic remedies that can be of great benefit for someone suffering with boils or carbuncles. Since immune deficiency is one of the top causes of this skin infection, naturally boosting the immune system is the first course of action for many people.
Herbs such as Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceous, Inula helenium and Withania somnifera are well-documented for their antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and their ability to strengthen and assist the immune system. These herbs not only help to treat current infections, but work well as a preventative measure so that the boils do not reoccur. Other herbs such as fennel and dandelion also help to detox the body and prevent reoccurring boils.
In addition, there are also homeopathic and herbal ingredients specific to skin ailments that can help speed recovery and keep the affected area clean and clear from harmful bacteria. Silicea, a homeopathic tissue salt, is very effective in helping the body to expel all foreign or toxic matter, including pus, and is frequently recommended in homeopathic dosage to quickly alleviate boils. In addition, naturopaths often recommend liver and systemic cleansing herbs such as Silybum marianus and Gallium aperine for skin boil treatment.
There are a number of simple ways to prevent boils from reoccurring: