A boil, (also known as a furuncle), is an infection of a hair follicle caused by a bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). Approximately one third of us carry this germ in our noses. It is usually harmless, but it can cause a range of mild to severe infections, if it gains access to deeper tissues.
Certain areas of the body are more susceptible to boils. They include the face, throat, armpits, groin and buttocks. A boil on the eyelid is known as a sty. A collection or cluster of boils is called a carbuncle. Boils usually go away by themselves.
Sometime, though, they can be severe. If you develop a fever while you have a boil, or if they keep coming back frequently, you should visit your doctor. In these situations you may need to have the boil lanced (open by piercing) and drained. This is usually followed with sterile dressings and a course of antibiotics. If this happens be sure to also take a good probiotic every day while you are using antibiotics, and for an additional week after you stop.
Boils "grow" when the Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria get transferred under the skin. Here's the life cycle of a common boil;
- A small area of skin becomes inflamed and tender
- A painful lump appears
- After a few days, a white or yellow head forms
- The boil bursts
- The pus drains out
- The site heals
- A scar may form, depending on the severity of the boil.
Cuts, scrapes or scratches allow the bacteria to gain access to deeper tissues.
Who suffers from boils?
Some people are more susceptible to boils. For example;
- recurring boils may be a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes.
- poor hygiene can cause boils to develop frequently. Sweat and dead skin cells in natural creases and crevices, such as the armpit, provide a home for bacteria to grow
- people who have a poor immune system or inadequate nutrition may suffer from recurring boils. If you have another infection, your immune system may be stressed and not able to fight off the bacteria that causes a boil
- broken skin or other skin conditions, such as eczema, can allow the S. Aureus bacteria to begin an infection and result in a more serious infection under the skin
- people who are suffering from other types of infections may experience frequent boils.
Staphylococcus bacteria can cause a range of infections, from relatively mild to severe and life threatening. There is a small risk that bacteria may spread from the boil to other areas of the body. Infection can cause inflammation of many organs and tissues, including:
- Bone (osteomyelitis)
- Heart (endocarditis)
- Lung (pneumonia)
- Meninges, the membranes lining the central nervous system (meningitis)
- Skin (impetigo)
- Vein (septic phlebitis)
These infections can be life threatening so don't take them lightly. What starts out as a simple boil can develop onto something much more sever if it isn't handled properly from the start.
Most boils can be successfully treated at home. As mentioned above, if boils pop up regularly or if you develop a fever, contact your doctor. This suggests that you need professional attention.
If you are seldom plagued by these infections you can turn to a home remedy for boils. Because most boils will go away if left alone, the basic instructions for a home remedy for boils is to LEAVE IT ALONE. DO NOT SQUEEZE a boil. It's tempting, but it can make matters much worse if the pus inside the boil escapes into your body. That's when those life threatening infections can start.
When you are successful at NOT SQUEEZING, follow these simple instructions
- Wash the boil and the area around it with warm water and soap and pat dry - do not rub
- Apply a hot compress (a clean cloth soaked in hot water - not boiling, but as hot as you can apply without discomfort) for 10 minutes or so, three times daily. This encourages the boil to come to a head
- Pat dry again (do NOT rub)
- Cover with a piece of sterile gauze and tape in place. Discard any used gauze
- The boil will burst in a few days
- Cover a burst boil with a bandage and don't pick at it while it heals
- Keep the area clean and covered
- Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of infection
- Use fresh towels every time you wash and dry the infected areas, and wash the towels in hot water and laundry detergent
- See your doctor if the boil isn't improving after a few days
- Wash bedding and towels frequently - use hot water and laundry detergent
- Boils can be contagious. Other people can become infected if they come in contact with the puss - or any of the dressings or towels used around the boil. Remember to keep things clean and to properly discard any dressing material you remove from the boil. When you use the home remedy for boils you have to be careful to keep things clean, properly dispose of all dressings and carefully wash any towels or washcloths you use.
Without treatment, boils usually come to a head, open, drain, and heal in 10 to 25 days. I suggest the first place to start working is on the digestive system. Often, an imbalance there causes a reduced immune system activity. The organism that causes a boil is common and most people have it on or in their body. Only a few will develop boils.
Those with a compromised immune system are more likely to suffer from the staph organism. A superior way to attack this problem is the daily use of a good probiotic. I also recommend FOS (fructooligosaccharides or inulin) as a support product for the probiotics. I recommend Florajen 3, two capsules daily for a week, then one daily from then on. The Florajen is a very high quality product and it supplies one of the highest probiotic counts on the market - and it is very affordable, far less than a dollar a day. Take Florajen 3 and FOS on an empty stomach. Use clean water (chlorine free if possible).
- A boil is an infection of a hair follicle, caused by the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus
- Boils usually resolve by themselves, but severe or recurring cases require medical attention
- Medical treatment may include antibiotics and lancing
- Don't squeeze or pop a boil - it can make matter much worse.
- Make sure you eat well and take a good quality vitamin supplement every day, one that contains vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc.