A boil is a local area of inflammation or abscess formation in the skin. A boil generally manifests itself initially as a hard, tender, reddish area. Later this softens; and if it comes to a “head,” a variable amount of pus will be discharged.
As compared to a pimple, a boil is somewhat larger and more deeply situated. A carbuncle is in turn larger still and involves more tissue destruction than a boil and, unlike the boil, a carbuncle has many heads through which pus may be discharged.
All three of these conditions may be regarded as basically interrelated, the common offending organism responsible for these suppurative infections of the skin being the staphylococcus organism. Since the staphylococcus is constantly found on the skin, it is not always possible to determine what has tipped the balance in favor of the invading germ. In some instances chafing or rubbing may be a factor, as when a boil develops under a tight collar or where the inner surfaces of the thighs rub against each other.
Boils sometimes develop in areas of the body where the circulation is less active, where sweating is excessive, as a complication of acne, or as a result of infection following the scratching of insect bites or other itching lesions of the skin. It is only infrequently that some systemic factor such as diabetes is found to be playing a role. Indeed, sometimes boils can be seen to come and go in crops in individuals who seem to be in excellent health.
A simple boil may not require much more attention than the application of hot wet compresses. These help to bring it to a head, and as a rule, once the pus has been discharged, progressive healing occurs without difficulty. If boils come and go frequently, more extensive treatment may be deemed desirable. This may include washing the skin with a soap containing an agent such as hexachlorophene, which destroys bacteria a a residual effect also. In addition, antibiotics knowneffective against the stash group of organisms may betaken by mouth or in the form of ointments applied locally.Simple soap-and-water cleanliness seems to be all that is necessary in the handling of boils, and it is quite rare to see evidence of transmission of the bacteria in the usual boil from one member of a household to another.