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  • Nov 14, 2018




(Other names: Abscess; Carbuncle when multiple boils fuse; Furuncle when hair root is involved; Sty when eyelids are involved)


A boil is a bacterial infection of the skin of any area(s) showing stages of a reddish area at first, then a hardened lump, and finally changing into a lump filled with pus that often shows through the top. The lesions may be single or multiple and generally surround a hair root or skin gland.



Boils occur as a result of an infection with germs called Staphylococcus aureus popularly known as Staph. The bacteria reach deeper layers of skin following cuts, alongside hairs, insect bites, or a preexisting skin disease. These germs tend to build a wall around their colonies which makes penetration of killing agents difficult. Certain conditions help bacteria breach body’s natural disease fighting capacity to let the bacteria attack. Such conditions include poor personal hygiene/ a close contact with an infected person, diabetes, use of resistance lowering medications like chemotherapy or steroids. Symptoms of boil may additionally include swelling of lymph glands, fever, and weakness. Boils is a common condition and runs the risk of taking serious turn if not handled properly. The germs can spread to blood, bones, brain or heart. Several varieties of germs have become unresponsive to commonly used antibacterial agents. Emerging drug resistance in bacteria in Staph has become a major concern due to difficulty in treatment and risk of spread in communities. Infections like boils are one of the commonest causes for abstention from work, discomfort, and financial loss. A considerable burden due to boils can be reduced with proper handling of this condition.


Quick facts


·         Boils can affect any age group in any gender and cases of boils arise in every part of the world.

·         Presence of hairs sweat, and friction are known to facilitate this infection.

·         Boils on the face are riskier than other locations due to greater risk of spread to the brain.

·         Ordinarily, the causative germs live on skin but do not produce any damage. The nose and the genitals are the favorite locations for these germs to reside.

·         Some germs have developed resistance to antibacterial agents and hence are tougher than others to treat. Such germs can grow in the presence of an antibiotic called Methicillin and are, therefore, called Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA. These are notorious for community infections.

·         Some individuals can carry Staph germs on their bodies without themselves suffering from symptoms although the individuals are still capable of infecting other people to produce disease. Such subjects are known as carriers.



Features, Self Help, & Better Management Strategies


The diagnosis of boils is usually based on clinical examination. Some cases might require laboratory tests to assess health status and minimize future risk of complications, select a suitable antibiotic, or to evaluate your natural capacity to fight infections. Most cases of boils would benefit from the self help measures listed hereunder.


Early stages of a boil improve with warm compresses. This can be done by using a towel or thick cloth dipped in warm water, with excess fluid squeezed out, and kept over the boil for 10-20 minutes every three to four hourly. If the boil has burst open, you should clean its surface with alcohol, apply an antibiotic cream and dress it with cotton bandage. Large sized boils are best handled by a healthcare professional with Incision and Drainage (I & D) which involves opening and draining of pus from the boil. The multiple pockets of boil are individually emptied and partitions between them broken down. At times, a gauze place is left in the drained cavity for a couple of days to prevent any further accumulation of pus.Painkillers, antibiotics, and other suitable medicines might be prescribed by your doctor.


In order to hasten recovery and prevent further damage, the following points are likely to help patients:

·         Treat and attend to every minor cut, wound, or insect bite promptly. Always cover such wounds dressed with sterilized dressing.

  •          You should not squeeze or pierce a boil. This will help in controlling spread of infection.
  •         You should wash your clothes, bed linen, and personal garments in hot water. These should not be mixed with others’ garments.
  •          Practice good personal hygiene.
  •          Adopt a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise.
  •          Dispose of infected dressings in a sterile manner.
  •         Avoid shaving hairy areas when the infection is active. Keep shaving equipment for personal use only
  •          If you are a diabetic or have another risk factor, take proper medication in consultation with your healthcare service provider.




You are permitted to share, distribute, print, or reproduce this article for private use with proper citation of the source. The article is a part of our service to fellow human beings as a means of health education and awareness enhancement to minimize dependence on healthcare


Dr Vinay Kumar

Senior Consultant Dermatologist



+91-93 199 299 00



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