Carbuncles, Furuncles and Boils Oh My!
DO NOT SQEEZE A BOIL. Yes, it looks like a giant pimple and it is red and hot and has a head. Do not squeeze it. It is a communicable staph infection that you don’t want to drive into the blood stream. A Carbuncle is a boil with two or more heads and a Furuncle is a boil with one head. All will be treated here as just BOILS. A boil is NOT an acne pimple. Do NOT treat it as an acne pimple.
Whenever you deal with the boil, wear disposable rubber gloves. Launder some rags with hot water and bleach. Use them or paper towels, toilet paper, gauze or cotton squares. Everything must be clean and cleaned up afterwards. Everything must be thrown away.
With the clean, disposable rags, make hot compresses. Just put the rags in hot water and wring out. Hold a compress over the boil until the rag cools. Do this a few times a day until the boil comes to a head. You will see a green or yellow dot in the middle. The boil will be hot and painful. It may turn the skin red, yellow, gray or even green. Do NOT pick the head or dot in the middle.
Apply OTC Ichthammol 20% to the boil. If your drug store doesn’t have it, you can order it on line. The price is about $6. It is also called Black Ointment or Black Drawing Salve. Use a disposable implement to apply it: a tongue depressor, back of a plastic spoon, a plastic knife, or a gloved finger. Apply rather thickly to the center, and then bandage to keep the black off your clothes. Throw away the tools and gloves.
Some doctors say to leave the boil open to the air to dry it out. I prefer to cover it with a bandage or a cushion of gauze held on with adhesive tape. If the boil pops, the pus won’t get on your clothes and it won’t get on other people. A good pad of gauze can cushion the boil against discomfort from clothes or just daily living. If the boil oozes, it will stick to the bandage. This is GOOD. When you rip off the bandage, the head of the boil will stick to the bandage. This will open the boil so you can clean it.
When you are ready to clean the boil, wear disposable gloves and have an abundance of disposable rags or tissue, etc. Have plastic bags to throw away all the contaminated material. You are dealing with something highly contagious. Look at the boil and how it mounds up. Go the edge of boil where the skin is still flat. With tissue over your fingers, press down and OUT, away from the center of the boil. This is different from how you treat a pimple. Do NOT press IN. Pressing in could cause the infection to go deeper into your body. Press OUT. If nothing happens, leave it alone. Put on a hot compress; remove it; and then bandage.
Eventually when you press down and out, the head will pop and pus will come out. Clean it up with toilet paper or tissue. Look at the pus. What you are looking for is a core of hard tissue. It may be white, red, or green. It may look flat on the top and taper to a point like a cone. It may not come out the first time that you clean the boil. After pressing on one side of the boil, move your fingers perpendicular to the position that they were in, and press down and out again. This will be very painful to the “victim” so be gentle. Eventually no more pus will come out. Clean up the area and bandage. Put all the contaminated paper and gloves into a plastic bag to tie up and dispose of.
The next day, do the same. You may have more pus than the day before. When the core of hard tissue comes out you will feel rewarded because you know that you are on the road to recovery. The boil will drain more easily after the core comes out.
Every day continue with hot compresses, pressing OUT, and bandaging. Anytime that pus comes in contact with anything not disposable, clean the area or item with Clorox. Some people advocating putting a drop of Clorox on the bandage to kill the germs. I don’t usually do this because it can sting.
Eventually no more pus will come out. Keep the area bandaged until all weeping is finished and the boil heals.
Towels, wash cloths, sheets, pajamas, etc. used by the patient should not be shared and must be changed and washed daily in hot water with Clorox. It is better to take a shower than a tub bath. If the boil were to pop in the tub, the pus would get in the water. With a shower, the pus would wash off in the flow of the water. After a shower, the shower floor should be doused with Clorox. Rubber shower mats can be washed in the washing machine with hot water and Clorox. Strict hygiene measures must be followed to prevent the spread of boils to other areas of the body and to family members.
Strengthening your immune system with extra Vitamin C may help prevent and heal a boil. Some people believe that Echinacea and Golden Seal supplements act as natural antibiotics. Pregnant or nursing women should not take Golden Seal, nor should people with high blood pressure, kidney or liver problems.