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Furuncles and Carbuncles – Home Treatments


One of the most painful and common conditions to affect the skin, furuncles can occur frequently in people with diabetes, people who are obese, the elderly, or people dealing with a compromised immune system. A hot and humid climate, poor hygiene, and close quarters can contribute to the condition, and people taking steroids can also suffer from frequent skin infections of this type. What exactly are furuncles and carbuncles, and what are some natural ways to effectively treat the outbreaks?

What Are Furuncles and Carbuncles?

Furuncles and carbuncles are caused by a staphylococcal infection which usually involves a hair follicle and surrounding tissue. The staphylococcal bacteria occurs naturally on the skin, but a break in the skin allows the bacteria to invade healthy tissue, and cause an infection. Another and more familiar name for furuncles and carbuncles is “boils”. A furuncle is a single boil, where a carbuncle is a group of them. They appear as red, inflamed bumps which can come to a whitish or yellow “head”. They can be quite painful, and if left untreated, can spread and cause systemic problems.

Furuncles and carbuncles typically appear on the neck, breasts, face, and buttocks, although other body areas can also be affected. A diagnosis is usually made by appearance and observation, and occasionally a doctor may take a culture to definitively determine the type of bacteria involved in the infection.

Natural Ways to Treat Furuncles and Carbuncles

The main thing to keep in mind when dealing with a furuncle or carbuncles is to refrain from squeezing them. It is best if the infection drains spontaneously, as squeezing, pinching, or lancing can spread the infection to the surrounding tissue. Warm compresses soaked in salt water can aid in bringing the infection to a head. Using a heating pad on low heat is also an option, although great care must be taken to prevent burns. Here are some other suggestions on how to treat furuncles and carbuncles:

* Use 9-10 drops of tea tree oil per 1 quart of warm water and apply 3-4 times a day. Tea tree oil has been shown to exhibit powerful anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties.
* A warm Epsom salt bath may help bring a furuncle to a head in hard-to-reach places such as the groin or buttocks.
* Onion or garlic poultices may also aid in drawing out the infection.
* Red clover tea is a natural antibiotic and cleanses the liver and bloodstream. There is evidence to suggest that toxins in the body can contribute to suppress the immune system, leading to more frequent breakouts of furuncles and carbuncles.

Prevention of Furuncles and Carbuncles

Once a person has experienced furuncles and carbuncles, they can frequently recur. There are several ways to reduce how often they will break out. These include:

* Good personal hygiene.
* Good handwashing techniques
* The use of liquid soap containing chlorhexidrine with isopropyl alcohol.
* A cycle of echinacea, an herb thought to boost the immune system.
* A low dose of systemic antibiotics for large boils, or boils that do not respond to topical treatments. Additionally, if there is evidence the infection is spreading and not being contained by other treatments, antibiotics may be prescribed.

When to Seek Out Professional Help

It is recommended that people who are suffering from an outbreak of furuncles or carbuncles to seek out professional care if the boils are extremely painful or last longer than two weeks without spontaneously draining with home treatments. Also, if a fever develops or there is a major change in appetite, a health care professional should be contacted immediately.

A common ailment for people at risk, carbuncles and furuncles can be quite painful and annoying to deal with. However, with the proper treatment, most infections clear up within a week or so of draining. The important thing to remember is to never squeeze the boil. Hot compresses to relieve the pain and hopefully draw out the infection should be the first treatment option. Make sure to practice good handwashing techniques. Call the doctor immediately if a fever develops.

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