Boils are pimple-like bumps that fill up with pus and become infected. They are unsightly, and if not treated properly the infection in a boil can spread. Once you know what a boil looks like, you should take steps to rid yourself of it carefully before it grows any larger and becomes more complicated to remove.
Boils act in a way to cleanse the body. Boils often occur when hair follicles become infected. Boils are known to be highly contagious. People who get boils more often than others are people who have a low resistance to bacterial infections. If a boil bursts, the infection can spread. Bacteria can get into the bloodstream when a boil is squeezed. A boil can develop into a carbuncle.
Boils are dome-shaped. They are red in appearance and are tender to the touch. Boils look like raised bumps, and after several days the skin covering a boil may look like a window of pus. The center of the boil at this time of development will appear yellowish in color and prominent. Boils can be as small as a pimple, but if a boil becomes severely infected, it can grow as large as a walnut and become very swollen.
Common Sites for Boils
Boils sometimes form in areas where skin is irritated by constant friction. Hair follicles are other places where boils form. Boils are commonly found in the area of the buttocks, on the nape of the neck and under the arms. A boil may also appear in the groin area.
Boils are usually caused by an infection by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, but boils more often develop due to a lack of proper or adequate hygiene. Another cause of boils is too many corticosteroid drugs. A polluted system caused by the consumption of foods that create acid can also be the cause of boils. Not enough essential fatty acids (EFAs) and vegetable protein in the diet can be a contributory factor as well. Diabetes mellitus is another cause of boils. Hair follicles are a common site for boils, and hair that is short and on the curly side will most often grow into the hair follicle and cause an infected boil to grow.
Because you can spread the infection in a boil when you squeeze it, it is best you use a more gentle approach to getting rid of it. Apply hot compresses to the boil at 2-hour intervals to alleviate pain and bring about faster drainage. You can also put some tea tree oil on the boil, or you can try using Epsom salt compresses to get boils to come to a head. If the boil is unusually large and is causing you pain, see your doctor for assistance. An antibiotic may be needed, or he may have to drain the boil by inserting a sterile needle into it. In severe cases, the boil may have to be lanced.
Because infection from boils can easily spread, take showers instead of baths. Wash boils with liquid soap that is antibacterial, and always wash hands after touching a boil. If need be, buy over-the-counter pain medication and take it to alleviate pain. Avoid coming in contact with clothes that have been up against a boil, and keep boils covered, clean and dry while they are draining, using sterilized gauze.
- The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine; Charles B. Clayman, M.D. (ed.); 1989
- Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th ed.; Linda Page; 2001
Based in New York, Grace Covelli has been writing since 1996. Her work has appeared on various websites, many of them health-related. Covelli completed a course in writing for children and teenagers and received a diploma for natural health consulting with highest honors. She also studied reflexology, Reiki and esthetics. One of her hobbies is sewing.