Ouch! Anyone who has had even a single boil will know that these are painful, messy, horrid things. Boils are fairly common with most of us having had one or two at some stage, so let us look into this topic in a bit more detail.

A boil is a skin infection caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus (aka “Staph”). A carbuncle is a collection of boils in one area. Boils are most often seen around the face, head, neck, armpit and groin but can affect any area really. A boil around the eye is called a stye and a boil in the mouth is called a gumboil.

Once-off or occasional boils can be treated with simple measures like basic cleaning remember about your hands – wash before and after and do not spread the Staph from your hands – and hot compresses to encourage popping. It may be necessary to open a boil and your doctor or clinic will do this “incision and drainage” simply enough with a scalpel. Most boils need no more than this. Recurring or severe cases may indicate underlying medical problems – weakened immunity may cause boil problems – and or a resident Staph infection (usually living in the nasal area). The best approaches are:

  • A full check up to loom for underlying health issues like HIV, Diabetes, cancers, etc. These are uncommon of course, but should be considered here.
  • A nasal swab test to look for resident Staph infection. If Staph take up residence (in your nose) this is best treated with antibiotic and nasal ointments and special skin soaps, usually for several weeks.

Untreated, boils can lead to Staph bacteria spreading anywhere in the body. Life threatening conditions like septicaemia can result although this is not common.

Boils are nasty. Simple boils usually heal on their own but recurring boils may indicate underlying medical problems, but more commonly recurring boils are caused by a resident Staph infection, which can be treated with specific medical treatments.