Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Newborn reflexes

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Mastitis

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Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

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Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Boils

boils smlBoils are localized infections of the skin that begin as reddened, sore areas and progressively become hard and firm. Eventually the center of the boil softens and becomes filled with infection fighting white blood cells. This collection of white blood cells, proteins and bacteria is known as pus. Finally, the pus "comes to a head" and either drains spontaneously or needs to be surgically opened. Pus enclosed within tissue is known as an abscess. Boils are also referred to as skin abscess. Boils vary in size from small, pimple like sores to large painful lumps. Skin abscesses can develop anywhere on the body, including the trunk, extremities and buttocks. The lifetime of a boil is approximately two weeks. Although unsightly and painful, in most cases boils are fairly harmless and heal on their own with good hygiene and some TLC. Men are more prone to developing boils than women.
A cluster of boils is known as a carbuncle. Carbuncles are more serious than boils and are frequently accompanied by fever and fatigue. Carbuncles generally occur on the back of the neck or thigh, and may produce a whitish, bloody discharge. Carbuncles require medical attention.
Symptoms
Boils begin as tender, pinkish, swollen areas in the skin. Over time, boils begin to feel like water-filled balloons or cysts.
A lump of varying size - boils may range from the size of a pea to having the diameter of a golf ball.
Itching before the boil develops.
Quick growth
Pain, which becomes progressively worse as the boil fills with pus and dead tissue. Conversely, the pain lessens as the boil drains.
Fever
Fatigue
Feeling generally unwell or run down
White or yellow centers (pustules)
Weeping, oozing, or crusting
Skin redness around the boil
Spreading to other skin areas or joining with other boils
A scar may form depending on the severity of the boil
Diagnosis
Boils can generally be diagnosed on the basis of their appearance. Your doctor may test a sample of cells from the boil, to detect the presence of the staphylococcus, other bacteria, or fungi. If you experience recurring outbreaks of boils, your doctor may check for underlying conditions, such as diabetes.
Causes
Boils can be caused by several factors, including ingrown hairs, splinters or foreign particles becoming lodged in the skin; and blocked infected sweat glands. Sometimes the cause of boils remains unknown. Our skin, the largest organ of the body, forms an integral part of our immune systems. It forms a defense against foreign material and microbes. If bacteria are present, any break in the skin, such as cuts or scrapes, can develop into an abscess. Boils are commonly caused by infection with the Staphylococcus bacteria. The bacterium gets the opportunity to enter the skin when the hair follicle has been traumatized. This can occur from a blockage, due to the use of oily ointment or lotion; or from irritation, such as clothing rubbing against the follicle.
Risk factors
People carrying the Staphylococcus bacteria are physiologically more likely to suffer from boils. Approximately 20% of otherwise healthy people are long-term carriers of the staph bacteria. The bacteria can live harmlessly on the surface of the skin and inside the throat and nose.
Being in close physical contact with a person who has a boil.
Certain condition such as acne, dermatitis, diabetes and anaemia, increase your risk of contracting a bacterial overgrowth, and therefore of developing boils.
Taking part in sporting activities that involve skin-on-skin contact such as wrestling or rugby.
Overcrowding and poor hygiene
Obesity – having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Treatment
As soon as you notice a boil beginning to form, apply a hot compress to prevent the development of infection. Saturate a clean wash towel with hot water. Remove the excess moisture and apply to the boil for 5-10 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times daily. Hot compresses are effective because they increase circulation and help draw antibodies and white blood cells to the site of infection. Heat speeds up the healing process by drawing pus to the surface of the boil, which encourages draining. For boils on the lower body, sitting in a warm bath may be more convenient. Warmth also helps ease the pain.
With the consistent application of warm compresses or soaking in warm baths, boils should drain on their own within two weeks. Although it may be tempting, never burst or drain a boil at home. Bursting the skin may cause infection or the spreading of bacteria, resulting in multiple boils.
Once the boil starts draining, it is essential to keep the area clean. Wash the affected area thoroughly with antibacterial soap and warm water, until all the pus has drained. Dry the area with a clean towel or paper towel and dispose of this immediately to prevent the spread of infection.
Apply an antibacterial cream or ointment to the boil and cover it with a gauze dressing. The gauze will encourage the boil to drain and should be changed frequently.
Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after touching affected areas.
Some boils require medical attention due to their size, location or infection. Your doctor will lance the boil, either in his office or in a surgery. Some boils have several pockets of pus that need to be drained, or they may develop in a delicate area such as the nose or ear canal. Antibiotics may be prescribed if an infection is present.
Contact your doctor immediately if:
A boil develops on the face or spine, in the nose or ear canal, or in the area between the buttocks. These boils are difficult to treat at home. Boils around the eyes and nose always require medical attention because the infection can access the bloodstream and spread to the brain.
You have developed an infection. Signs of infection include redness and inflammation of the affected area, fever, red streaks and oozing from the boil.
You have a disease such as cancer or diabetes, or are taking medication that compromises the immune system. In these cases, the body may be unable to fight infection on its own.
The boil has not started to heal on its own following one week of home treatment.
The boil is extremely painful.
Recurrent boils in the groin or armpit may require surgical removal of the sweat glands that are responsible for the regular inflammation.
Prevention
Boils and carbuncles can spread to another part of the body or to another person. Simple precautions such as hand washing after touching infected areas and care when disposing of used dressings can prevent the spreading of bacteria found in boils. Do not share facecloths or towels. Wash the facecloth, towel and bed linen of the affected person at high temperatures. Cover boils with sterile gauze until they heal. Change gauze or dressings regularly, place them in a plastic bag and dispose of used dressings immediately. Avoid gyms, saunas or swimming baths until your skin has healed.
Preventing the development of boils
Boils and carbuncles are not always preventable but there are certain precautions you can take, to minimize your risk of developing skin infections. Wash your hands frequently using a mild anti-bacterial soap. Washing prevents the buildup of bacteria on the skin. Clean any break in the skin, such as cuts, scrapes or wounds to prevent the development of infection. Cover wounds with sterile gauze until they have healed. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Boils that develop between the buttocks, also called "pilonidal cysts", are the direct result of pressure on the area from prolonged sitting. Follow a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly. By optimizing immune system functioning, you are less likely to develop skin infections, such as boils.
Prognosis
Some people are prone to developing boils and suffer from repeated recurrences.
Boils can be incredibly painful and may require medical intervention.
In certain cases, family members of the same household may require treatment because the staph bacterium is contagious.
When boils grow close together, expand and join, a condition called carbunculitis develops.

References
A.D.A.M. Health Guide: Boils. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/furuncle/overview.html . Reviewed November 20, 2012. Accessed February 23, 2014.
Discovery Health. 7 Home Remedies for Boils. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-boils.htm . Accessed February 13, 2014.
NHS Choices. Boils and Carbuncles – Prevention. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Boils/Pages/Prevention.aspx . Reviewed February 13, 2013. Accessed February 21, 2014.
WikiHow. How to treat a boil. http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-a-Boil . Accessed February 23, 2014.