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Boils — infections surrounding hair follicles that are also called furuncles — are, let's face it, pretty disgusting, not to mention quite painful. The culprit's usually Staphylococcus aureus (though other bacteria, including MRSA, can also cause boils). Boils can show up anywhere on your body where you have hair, but tend to appear where you sweat most, such as the bottom, armpits, and neck. Contrary to public opinion, a lack of hygiene usually has nothing to do with their appearance.

You Can Usually Treat Boils At Home

Boils, with their progressive development that eventually leads to an eruption (after giving you quite a bit of bother, redness, and swelling, of course), are inevitably a metaphorical and literal pain. If you're absolutely sure that what you're dealing with is a boil, however, you don't really need to see a doctor. You can if you want to, of course, but nothing bad will happen if you don't. 

Instead, the most common advice is to self-treat your boil with warm, moist, and clean compresses a few times a day. A freshly laundered wash cloth over which you pour hot but not boiling water will do the trick, but you may also use medical bandages. This process speeds the timing of eruption up. 

One word of warning — the fluid in the boil is indeed cotagious. Therefore, make sure to change your bed sheets extremely often, and don't share towels or clothing with anyone else. Wash your hands well after touching your boil, particularly once it has "popped". When it does, by the way, you can dress it in sterile gauze (change often!) to help prevent infection. 

Oh, one word of warning. No matter how appealing, please don't pop your boil yourself. 

Home treatment for boils can, as you see, be effective in its simplicity and common sense. Nonetheless, some people afflicted with boils do turn to remedies that, well, feel more like remedies — things like Acanthus montanus or turmeric.

When Do I Need To See A Doctor About A Boil?

Boils are incredibly common and hardly represent an inherent medical emergency. Mind you, if your boil just gets bigger and bigger with time and doesn't seem to want to come to a head, and you're still walking around with it after two or three weeks, it may be time to call in some help.

This is especially true if you are also suffering from fever and just generally feel bad, or if your "boil" instead seems to be a whole cluster of boils (a carbuncle). Sensitive areas like the face and spine also require more caution, and suffering from quite severe pain or obvious signs of a spreading infection are tell-tale signs that you should no longer be treating your boil at home. 

When you do see your doctor with a more complicated boil, multiple boils, or recurrent boils, you may be prescribed a course of antibiotics to help conquer your painful problem. Boils may also be drained by means of a small cut. This should be done under sterile conditions to prevent infection, and that's good reason to refrain from doing it yourself. 

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