How to deal with boils

Mumbai, July 3 -- A boil is the skin's way of cleansing itself of unwanted toxins. Boils can develop in any hairy area of skin due to friction or sweat.

Boils are red, painful and usually appear suddenly. If not treated, a boil will eventually open, drain, and heal within approximately one to three weeks. It is important to know that boils are contagious.

Do not allow the pus to ooze and come into contact with skin in other areas. Avoid scratching as it can cause the infection to spread. If a boil spreads to other areas, the condition is then called a carbuncle. The treatment for boils and carbuncles is similar. Carbuncles mostly occur on the back of the neck or thighs.

Causes of boils

1. Skin conditions that may cause you to scratch and damage the skin.

2. Obesity.

3. A poor immune system.

4. If you are a 'carrier' of Staphylococcus bacteria.

Treatment of boils

To prevent boils from forming:

1. Good bowel movement is important. Constipation can make skin problems worse. Drink at least two to three litres of water a day and eat plenty of fibre.

If you feel your immunity is poor, then consider going on an immunity boosting diet. Make sure your diet consists of fresh, whole, unprocessed foods that include juices, fruits and leafy vegetables. Any diet aimed at reducing boils needs to focus on improving your immunity.

Zinc is an important mineral for boosting immunity and is essential in the treatment of boils. Along with zinc, foods containing vitamin A (fish and dairy products), vitamin C (fruits and vegetables) and vitamin E (nuts and seeds) are helpful in strengthening the immune system.

Other methods

1. Give special attention to personal hygiene.

2. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching the body folds or your nose.

3. Wearing loose cotton clothes and keeping cool is also helpful.

If you have recurring boils and you're otherwise very healthy, then you or someone in your family may be a 'carrier' of the Staphylococcus bacteria. If you are a 'carrier' yourself, then you tend to be more prone to skin infections and boils.

Treatment using antibiotics and / or antibiotic nasal cream may clear Staphylococcus bacteria from 'carriers' and reduce the chance of boils.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.