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Boils (also known as furuncles, carbuncles, and styes) are relatively common and usually pose no serious health threat. They can erupt around an inflamed hair follicle, usually on the face, scalp, underarm, thigh, or buttocks. Often, small boils arise and subside within a week or two. Deeper boils or boil sites with multiple pus-filled, pimple-like heads are probably caused by a bacterial infection (usually Staphylococcus aureus) and can recur in cycles or erratically for years after the first eruption.

Most boils respond well to a regimen of very warm compresses and careful cleansing procedures. Sometimes, however, boils fail to drain properly, or they become very painful and inflamed. In such cases, a visit to the doctor to have the area drained usually is necessary, and a 10-to-14-day cycle of oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

Symptoms

  • Red, painful, pus-filled abscess beneath the skin's surface
  • Minor swelling around boil area
  • Appearance of a pimple-like head or multiple heads in center of swollen area(s) that sometimes erupt and drain fluid, pus, or both.
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Consult Your Doctor If:

  • You have a boil on or near your lip, nose, armpit, groin, breast, or between buttocks.
  • A boil is very large or causes significant inflammation of surrounding areas.
  • You have boils accompanied by a fever.

Home Care Ideas:

  • At the first sign of a boil, apply very warm, wet compresses to the area for 20 minutes, three to four times a day for a week or until the boil comes to a head and breaks.
  • Sit in a hot bath for 20 minutes daily until boil erupts.
  • After a boil erupts, clean the area and apply an antibacterial cream (e.g., Neosporin or Bacitracin).
  • Cover erupted or draining boils with a bandage to keep fluid from spreading infection. Change bandage three or four times a day.
  • Do not pinch or squeeze boils that are not fully drained. You may cause a deeper infection.
  • Keep boil area or boil-prone areas very clean; wipe skin with a clean cotton ball soaked in alcohol or Betadine antiseptic solution to keep infection from spreading.
  • For boils on the face: Before shaving, wash your face with an antibacterial soap. After shaving, apply alcohol to affected areas. Immerse razors in alcohol between shaves.
  • When you have a boil, wash towels, washcloths, bed linens, and clothing daily in hot water.
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