Skin Infection: Facts About Boils and Treatment
Boils are skin infection which commonly affects your neck, face, shoulders, armpits and buttocks. However boil can be seen in other parts of your body as well.
Skin is one of the natural defences that protect your body from diseases. When your skin is intact and strong it prevents germs from entering your body to cause any problems. Boil starts when bacteria enter into a hair follicle (oil gland) through a crack or wound on your skin. The bacteria (known as Staphylococcus aureus) can also travel down the hair on your skin to reach the follicle. These types of bacteria live normally in your nose. Problem starts when you pick your nose then use the finger to touch your skin. The tiny germ will then find a crack on your skin or climb down a hair to go inside you.
The bacteria grow and multiply very fast within your skin or inside the oil gland. This will cause your skin to turn red in the area and a painful swelling develops. Within a few days to a week pus (thick creamy fluid) collects under your skin.
Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms and signs of a boil may include redness, pain and swelling of your skin around the area of infection. You may also have fever and other boils may develop near the initial one. The boil may burst open to release pus or blood. Sometimes the pus may collect deep down into the structures below your skin (muscles and fat) and spread out.
Some types of Staphylococcus bacteria known as MRSA are difficult to treat and are responsible for serious skin infections. These types of bacteria are the reason why you have skin infections again and again after treatment.
The following may indicate a serious infection and requires that you see a doctor as soon as possible:
- When you have fever together with a skin swelling and pain.
- If you feel too much pain in the affected area.
- When you notice other boils developing near the first one it shows that a large part of your skin is affected.
- If you are suffering from diabetes mellitus, heart disease, HIV or other medical problems your skin infection could be worse. This is because your body’s defence system is weak so the infection easily spread to other parts of your body. However if your problem is heart disease the fear is that the bacteria could reach your heart and make the heart disease worse.
You can treat simple boil at home without the need for a hospital visit. Soak a cloth in warm water and apply on the affected area. This will reduce pain and help to burst open the boil. However you should not use any sharp object such as needle to open the boil as it can increase the infection. When the boil opens use clean water and antibacterial soap to clean it. Apply antibacterial ointment on it then close with a gauze and plaster. You should clean the wound this way every 6 – 8 hours in a day.
You may need hospital treatment when the boil is associated with other symptoms such as fever and too much pain. Other reasons for hospital treatment include the following: when many boils develop on the skin; if you have other medical problems.
A sample of the fluid inside the boil on your skin should be taken and sent to the laboratory for tests. This is done to identify the type of bacteria causing your problem and what drugs can treat it. Your doctor will also take a sample of your blood for laboratory tests. This will help find out if the bacteria have spread into your blood stream. Remember bacteria are carried through the blood to different parts of your body. This is also the means by which serious illness starts in some parts of your body (example endocarditis in your heart and osteomyelitis in your joints).
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic medicine for you to take by mouth before the results of lab tests are out. If the boil is not complicated you will continue with the treatment. But if the illness is complicated then antibiotic injections will be given directly through your veins for effective action.
Also the boil will be cut open and the fluid (pus) inside it removed by the surgeon. Cleaning and covering of the wound created will continue until healing is achieved.
How to Prevent Boil (Skin Infection)
You can prevent a boil from developing on your skin by following these simple guidelines:
- Ensure cleanliness of skin and your environment as this will prevent bacteria contaminating wounds on your skin.
- Also improve your immunity through healthy eating habits and healthy living.
- Take care of skin cracks and injuries to prevent contamination with bacteria.
- If an individual within the family suffered from boil the clothes and bed sheets they used should be properly washed. This will ensure that the disease is not transmitted to another family member.
You can find an awesome collection of health care products that you can use to protect your skin from infections right here.
Papadakis, M. A. & McPhee, S. J. (2015). Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment. 53. McGraw –Hill. USA
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