It will be right to say we are in the season of boil as more cases are being reported at this time.
An occupational health Doctor, Dr. Lakin Adelakun in this interview with The Punch revealed the best way to prevent and treat a boil. See excerpt below:
How would you define boil?
A boil is an infection on the skin caused by a germ called ‘staphylococcus aureus’. It is the commonest cause of boil on the body.
What causes recurring boil?
Staph aureus is a normal commensal of our body; a part and parcel of our skin. It is normally a part of our lives, it doesn’t cause us harm in whatever way. But the moment there is a break in the continuity of the skin and it penetrates, it causes harm.
Usually one is likely to have a boil when one plucks or shaves one’s hair from the body and there is a small cut, it heals. The next time you shave and the same occurs,a person is likely to have a recurrence of boil.
The follicle of the hair is an easy way for germ to penetrate, a break in the skin is also an avenue to allow germ access the body.
Is this why people have boils more in their private areas?
Yes, that explains it especially when they shave those areas. Also, the issue of cleanliness is also a major factor. We sweat a lot in those areas because they are not as open as other areas. If attention is not paid to those areas, they will invite germs easily.
What are the symptoms of boil?
It is an infection and one of the major symptoms of infection is swelling and pain. Boil comes with a pain, and then goes away gradually. Usually, a boil starts as a hard, red, painful lump. After some days, the lump becomes softer, larger and more painful. Soon a pocket of pus forms on the top of the boil.
How can boil be treated?
Usually what happens is that one has boil under with a little pore on it. What one can do is to give it a warm compression. Clean it regularly and wash several times for about four or five times daily. Whenever one watches it, one should give it a warm compression. That will help to relieve one and also soften the boil. In most cases, we put people on antibiotics. If it is not a big one, it will start to resolve from the edges or eventually becomes big enough and it has a point. If it has to be broken or incised, then it must be done in the hospital.
Are complications from the condition responsible for cases when some people underwent surgeries to remove boil?
It shouldn’t be but if the boil has pores, it can be extremely painful depending on where it is, because it exerts so much pressure like when one has whitlow. When it gets to that stage, it becomes extremely painful and because of the pain, a person can go to the hospital. The doctors will do what we call higher incision and drainage and then the patient will take antibiotics. Otherwise, if it didn’t get to that level and one does warm compression and take antibiotics, it will disappear. One can treat it conservatively but when it gets to a higher level of pain and it becomes a carbuncle, then it requires a higher level of treatment.
What does it signify when a person has recurring boil?
One of the things that we, as medical practitioners watch out for when people have recurring boil, is their sugar level. We want to know if they are not diabetic or have high sugar level. The way the mouth loves sugar is the same way germs love sugar. One of the things manifesting in diabetic people is recurring boil. Also when one shaves and has a boil, does the same thing again and the situation occurs, it is normal for the place to become hardened. When one shaves that place again and it tends to have more cuts than the natural skin, one is likely to have a recurrence there.
Is it effective to apply shea butter to boil?
I don’t have a problem with applying shea butter to boil. Wash the place very well, damp it with a warm pack for about 10 to 15 minutes and apply the shea butter. Just ensure that you sterilise the warm pack that you use. I have no problem with applying shea butter for treating boil at all.
What is your opinion about over-the-counter drugs to treat boil?
There are some things that their treatment is simple. One has a painful infection and desires to get rid of the pain. Analgesic, non-steroidal and inflammatory drugs are over-the-counter drugs. One can buy them to relieve the pain because one knows they are good for pain relief. Antibiotics generally should be by prescription. People are not supposed to have access to such drugs because they lead to resistance. For instance, we have what is called methicillin resistance staphylococcus infection; it is a resistance to antibiotics due to abuse of the drug. We take too much antibiotics in this country because we have access to it. People even get it in a bus. We have different kind of germs with different sensitivity. Thus, one should get medical personnel to tell which of the antibiotics is best for one’s condition. Incidentally because staphylococcus is part of our life, it has got used to the individual and environmental abuses and has become largely resistance to common drugs. It is better for doctors to prescribe the right drug for that purpose. Take a history look at it for that purpose. One should be unable to buy antibiotics over-the-counter but for analgesics, yes.
Why do babies have boil?
Babies are handled a lot and they have little resistance. They are exposed to the environment and because they have little resistance, environmental factors affect them a little bit more. It is from exposure that they develop more resistance overtime. Babies will naturally come down with things in the process of growing; they tend to come up with some things and boil is one of them.
What is the relationship between boil and carbuncle?
A boil is officially called a carbuncle when there is an aggregation of two or three boils spread together to become something large. It is like a bigger brother to boil. In most situation of carbuncle, you have to end up with incision and drainage.
What differentiates a boil from other swellings on the body?
Other thing you are likely to have like that is cyst and other minor swellings on the body but usually, they are not painful. Boil is an infection. If one has acne on the skin like pimples, unless it comes with racketing and gets infected, that is when it becomes painful. But for boil, the moment it starts to develop, it comes with pain. In fact, most times, what attracts attention to boil is the pain before one sees the swelling.
How does one handle the itch associated with boil?
Usually, boil doesn’t come with the itch; its major symptom is pain. Part of the healing process in a lot of condition is for one to experience an itch. It is not part of the symptoms. Usually, when one has wound or surgery and it is healing, it comes with an itch. It is part of the healing process, not in any way particular to boil.
What is your advice on how to treat a boil?
The first thing or the critical thing about boil or any other diseases generally is prevention and that starts with education. I said a germ called staph causes boil when there is a break in the continuity of the skin. Everything associated with infection is traceable to uncleanliness. The cleaner one is, the less one’s chances of getting infected. Personal and environmental hygiene are major preventive measures.
Also, when one wants to shave, one should do it in a way that one wouldn’t be injured. When you shave; clean the place well. Wash the part with soap and water after shaving. You don’t have to apply spirit, wash with soap and plenty of water. The moment you finish shaving, wash thoroughly with soap and water. Don’t break your skin and once you do, make sure you clean well. If we keep to personal and environmental hygiene, we will not be prone to infection.