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Boils are a problem that is often misinterpreted because it is easy to confuse it with acne or cysts. They are characterized by burning, itching and sometimes pain, and they appear in the deeper layers of the skin, in the form of a swelling filled with pus and dead tissue. They may not seem like a serious thing, but if one or more boils appear, it is best to see a doctor in order to prevent complications.

Causes of boils

Many things can cause boils. For example, they can develop as a result of an infection following a skin injury, like a cut or a scrape. Boils can be caused by an ingrown hair or an infected hair follicle, but the most common and the most important cause of boils is Staphylococcus aureus or staph infection.

Staphylococcus aureus exists in most people, especially in the nose, without causing any medical issues. Most people are not aware of having it at all. Due to certain triggering factors, the bacteria can multiply and cause an infection. Boils are one form of staph infection that manifests itself in the skin.

Treatment for boils

If the boils are caused by a staph infection, as they often are, they should be treated with antibiotics. Over-the-counter medication that is available for this purpose usually comes in the form of antibiotic creams, ointments and lotions. In some cases staph infection is so severe it can only be treated with prescription-strength medications, and those require a trip to the doctor’s office.

Staph infections can pass from one person to another. If the bacterial culture shows that one family member has staph infection, it is recommended that the others get tested too.

Mild cases of boils can be successfully treated at home. One way to do it is to use moisture and heat. Soaking in warm or hot water is very effective, if the boil is located in the place that can actually be soaked. Otherwise, it can help to soak a clean washcloth or a small towel in some hot water and to press it against the boil. This will help against he pain and it will draw the boil out.

Once the boil bursts and drains, it should be cleaned with an antiseptic soap and covered with a thin coat of an antibiotic ointment.

Boils should never be cut or pierced at home. Boils eventually burst on their own, but if they need to be drained, that should be done by a doctor or a nurse.

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