With the summer at its scorching peak now, you must have already started noticing the season’s common skin issues. Right? One such skin concern that none of us like to experience are heat boils!
Boils are red, pus-filled lumps that are contagious. They may even be painful as they develop. But, do not worry as there are a number of home remedies and over-the-counter treatments that can help reduce the redness, inflammation and pus associated with a boil. Keep reading to find out.
- What Is A Boil?
- What Causes A Boil?
- Types Of Boils
- Symptoms Of Boils
- How To Treat Boils?
- How To Prevent Boils?
- What Are The Possible Complications Of A Boil?
- How Long Does It Take For Boils To Go Away?
- Dos And Don’ts
- When Should You Go To The Doctor To Treat A Boil?
- Are Boils Contagious In Swimming Pools?
What Is A Boil?
A boil is a bacterial skin infection, which develops in a hair follicle or an oil gland. Sweaty skin surfaces are usually the breeding grounds for this type of bacteria. Initially, the skin becomes red before the formation of a pus-filled lump. It takes about 4-7 days for the boil to form a lump.
What Causes A Boil?
A boil on the skin is usually caused by a type of bacteria called staphylococcal. It tends to penetrate through tiny cuts, wounds or sweat on the skin.
If you have any of these conditions, you may be prone to developing boils:
- Poor health/immunity
- Poor hygiene
- Using harsh chemicals on skin
Types Of Boils
Various forms of acne are associated with boils. However, the most common types of boils are:
1. Cystic Acne
As the name suggests, cystic acne is a more severe form of acne. It is characterized by big pus-filled boils that usually appear on the face. These boils are caused when a pore gets clogged with oil, bacteria and dirt.
2. Furuncles And Carbuncles
These boils are caused by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus. Fever is a common symptom of furuncle. Furuncle boils are quite common and a cluster of the same is called a carbuncle.
3. Pilonidal Cysts
These boils usually occur in between skin folds and warm areas. They tend to develop due to warmth and moisture that are trapped in these areas. Sitting in once place for long hours or excessive sweating and heat can contribute to the development of these boils.
4. Hidradenitis Suppurativa
This is a more serious type, which usually requires for it to be removed surgically. You may even notice a number of boils in small areas like your armpits. These boils can be quite uncomfortable to deal with by yourself.
Symptoms Of Boils
Boils can be different in size. Most boils are about half an inch in size. Initially, boils tend to be hard and progress into soft, more painful lumps. The center of a boil is usually pus-filled.
Boils can get infected at times. If you notice any of these, your boil may be infected:
- Red, painful and warm skin around boil
- The development of more boils around the initial one
- Swollen lymph nodes
How To Treat Boils?
1. Hot Compress
Using a hot compress speeds-up the healing process. Applying a warm compress to the boil can help in attracting antibodies that fight the infection and also increases circulation (1). It also tends to draw the pus to the skin’s surface that helps speed-up its draining. This method may also help relieve pain.
Turmeric can be used to treat a number of skin conditions. It contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may help reduce pain, inflammation and swelling (2). It also fights the bacteria that contributes to causing these boils. You can use a turmeric paste and allow it to sit on the area till it dries up. Gently rinse with warm water after it dries up.
3. Antibacterial Soap
If you do notice that the boil has started draining, it is important to keep it clean. You can use an antibacterial soap to address this concern and make sure you gently pat dry when you have washed it.
4. Antibacterial Cream
Antibacterial creams can help fight bacteria and speed-up the healing process. When you have applied the cream, cover it with gauze to make sure that pus drains out. A number of OTC antibacterial creams are available.
5. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt can help dry out the pus at the center of the boil. You can dissolve some epsom salt in warm water. Use a cloth to soak it in and gently press it against the boil for 20 minutes. You can do this 3-4 times a day if required.
6. Castor Oil
Castor oil contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help treat boils (3) (4). Apply a small amount of castor oil to your boil three times a day.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your boil is too large or refuses to go away. So, do make it a point to visit your doctor if you notice a stubborn or big boil.
How To Prevent Boils?
- Do not share your towels, covers, bedding or clothes with somebody who has a boil. This can transfer bacteria onto your skin and cause you to develop a boil.
- Maintain hygiene to prevent bacteria from infecting your follicles. Wash your skin everyday with normal soap and after workouts especially. You can also gently scrub using a brush to remove any dirt or oil that may clog your pores.
- Use a disinfectant to clean-up your cuts and wounds. This will prevent bacteria from infecting your follicles. You can also use an antibacterial cream after cleaning.
What Are The Possible Complications Of A Boil?
Boils can sometimes cause scarring. Some may even experience recurrent furunculosis. In case you do notice the constant recurrence of boils on your skin, you may have a condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa. If you don’t treat this early enough, symptoms may worsen.
Sometimes, if not treated properly, your boil may get infected. This may result in blood poisoning or “sepsis”. However, this is a rare condition.
How Long Does It Take For Boils To Go Away?
Boils may take around 4 days to go away. This means that the pus usually drains out by then. However, some boils may need to be removed with the help of a surgery as they can be painful and sometimes, may even last for days. If you are unable to drain out the pus of a boil, it may get re-infected.
Dos And Don’ts
- Don’t squeeze your boil. This can cause the infection to spread and result in scarring.
- Do use a warm compress 3-4 times a day.
- Don’t apply too much pressure while you use a compress. However, some pressure is required for the pus to drain out. Make sure you do not get the boil to burst while doing the same.
- If your boil goes away in a few days, keep the area clean by washing it regularly and maintaining hygiene.
- Wash your hands every time you treat your boil or come in direct contact with it.
- Don’t share any clothes or covers with somebody who has a bil.
When Should You Go To The Doctor To Treat A Boil?
If your boil is too big or refuses to go away when you have tried to treat it at home, visit your doctor. He may prescribe antibiotics or manage to drain out your boil carefully. In the case of large boils, avoid trying to drain them by yourself. It is recommended that you visit your doctor in such a case.
Are Boils Contagious In Swimming Pools?
It is not very likely that you’ll develop a boil from somebody in a swimming pool. The chlorine in the water tends to kill the bacteria. However, it is important that you take a shower after swimming and make sure that you wash your costume and cap with detergent when you get home. This will prevent the development of any other infections as well.
Boils are usually caused by a particular type of bacteria called staphylococcal. A number of home remedies like turmeric, castor oil and tea tree oil can be used to treat a boil, besides OTC treatments. Do remember that boils are contagious and can spread from one person to another upon the sharing of clothes or other objects that may come into direct contact with them. They should be examined by a doctor if they are too large or refuse to drain out.
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