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What is the treatment for boils?

Q: My 64 years old husband is having about 6 - 7 boils in his armpit, which are quite painful. His blood sugar levels are normal. What could be the reason for these boils? Last month he got 2 boils on his wrist and one on the calf. Is there any treatment for this? How can these be avoided?

A:Your husband seems to be suffering from boils (furuncles). A boil is a deep form of bacterial folliculitis, superficial folliculitis is sometimes present at the same time. Staphylococcus aureus (a bacterium) can be cultured from the skin lesions. Treatment would require the following:

  • Consult your doctor about your general health.
  • If you are overweight, try to reduce your weight; take regular exercise..
  • Follow a balanced healthy diet with meat, plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Wash your whole body once a day with soap and water. Wash your hands several times daily.
  • Don't share your flannel or towel with other family members.
  • Maintain a clean handkerchief and don’t pick your nose!
  • Change your underclothes and night attire regularly.
  • Avoid leisure activities which cause sweating and friction from clothing, such as squash and jogging.
  • If you are iron deficient, a course of iron tablets may help reduce infection.
  • 1000 mg of vitamin C each day has also been advocated.
  • Antiseptic cleanser in your daily bath or shower for a week then twice weekly for several weeks. The cleanser may cause a little dryness.
  • Use a hand sanitizer regularly to reduce the chance of re-infecting yourself or others with contaminated hands.
  • Antiseptic or antibiotic ointment or gel to apply to the inside of the nostrils.
  • Wipe the entire skin surface daily for a week with 70% isopropyl alcohol in water (this will make the skin dry).
  • Apply a topical antiseptic such as povidone iodine or chlorhexidine cream to the boils and cover with a square of gauze.
  • Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotics Cephalosporins, Clindamycin etc.

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