A skin boil is caused when an infection enters the skin through a cut or skin tear. Since people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, often get skin tears they tend to get a lot of boils as well, though diabetes doesn’t cause boils directly. When the boil first starts to form it will most likely be small and reddish. As the infection gets worse pus will form under the skin which will make the boil bigger and give it a whitish appearance.
Boils can appear all over the body and at any age, but they tend to show up most often on the face, shoulders, back, buttocks and thighs. They usually will get big enough that they will burst and all the pus, and infection, will drain off with no intervention.
If a person with a compromised immune system gets a boil they may need to seek medical care since they are much more susceptible to the infection getting serious. For people in good health, you would only need to see a doctor to treat a boil if one or more of the following conditions occurred:
1. The boil turned red with streaks and / or became extremely painful. A little discomfort is expected when you have a boil and it can be worse depending on where the boil is located on your body, but extreme pain can be a sign of a serious infection and you may need some medication so it’s best to talk to your doctor if that happens.
2. You develop a fever. This too is a sign that the infection that caused the boil may have gotten worse or spread, you should talk to your doctor right away.
3. You form a group of boils. This also indicates a more severe infection and you may need a prescribed antibiotic from your doctor to get rid of it.
Some people think they should pop their boil and let it drain but that can actually make things worse. Few people have a sterile environment in which to work in their own home, therefore if you try to lance the boil you may only introduce additional bacteria into the area and create a worse infection. If lancing is necessary it should only be performed by a professional in a sterile environment. Let your doctor handle it.
It’s also important to keep the area of the boil and the surrounding areas clean and disinfected so you don’t spread the infection. Carefully cleanse the area of the boil throughout the day to keep it clean, and wash your hands before and after contact with the boil.
Once the boil drains keep the area cleaned and covered with a bandage as well as an antibacterial ointment to prevent further infection.
At one time or another most of us will have a skin boil and while they can be painful and unattractive they are rarely serious and more often then not will burst on their own. Just remember to keep the area clean and don’t pop the boil yourself otherwise you could turn a fairly common situation into a serious infection. If your boil needs additional attention your doctor can handle it.
This article is not medical advice and should not be used to replace professional medical advice from your personal medical doctor.