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Staph Infections: Folliculitis, Furuncles, and Carbuncles (Boils)

Types of Staph Infection

Staphylococcus aureus is the name of the bacteria that causes all of the following: 

Folliculitis Red bumps around individual hair follicles anywhere there is hair including the nose, eyelids, anus
Furuncles Collections of hair follicles that are inflamed, red, and usually infected
Carbuncles Collections of many, many hair follicles that combine together to form a large skin abscess commonly referred to as a boil.  Many times these abscesses are mistaken as spider bites even by physicians

All of these staph infections may drain liquid pus or dead white cells mixed with the germ or bacteria.  Pus is usually white, brown, or yellow/green, and it may have blood mixed in with it.

Treatment of Staph Infections

Drainage of the liquid yellow material or pus is the most important treatment for staph infections.  Folliculitis, furunculosis, and carbuncles usually respond to to repeated application of warm, moist compresses or soaking/showering which will help to bring them "to a head" or soften, liquify, and drain on their own.  When these staph infections do not drain on their own, drainage may be performed with either a syringe/needle or with some other surgical instrument by a healthcare provider.  An antibiotic like sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra or others) or cephalexin (Keflex or others) may be necessary at times also.

Recurrence of Staph Infections 

Recurrent folliculitis, furuncles or boils may be due to auto-infection or a vicious cycle where drainage of the bacteria from one area on the body is spread to another area of the body via touching, clothes, bed linens, or towels. 

Prevention of Recurrent Staph Infections

If recurrent staph infections are a problem for you, it may be well worth your time to try the following strategies:

1 Wear clothes for one day at a time only.  Wash clothes in warm water with detergent (and a small amount of bleach if possible.)  Repeated washings are not necessary.
2 Cover all draining wounds and change the dressing as often as necessary to prevent saturation of the dressing or at least once a day.
3 Change and wash your bath towel several times per week.
4 Change and wash your bed linens several times per week.
5 Bathe at least once a day.  Use an antibacterial soap such as Dial, Safeguard, and any of the green soaps like Irish Spring.  If your skin is excessively dry after using this type of soap, try using a moisturizing soap afterwards or a lotion after you bathe or shower.  Special antibacterial soaps such as Hibiclens may be used but they are usually not necessary and they may be expensive.
6 Wash your hands frequently or use an antibacterial liquid (Purell and others) on your hands several times per day, particularly after you touch your wounds, your clothes, your towels, or your bed linens.
7 Avoid shaving while you have staph infections or at least keep shaving to a minimum.
8 If your pet has crusty or oozing wounds, you may need to seek treatment for your pet from a veterinarian.
9 Avoid contact with other persons who do not practice good hygiene and people who have folliculitis/furuncles/carbuncles.

Although it is a lot of work, it will probably be necessary to continue these activities until all of your staph infections are completely healed and then for some time. 

If despite these strategies, you continue to develop problems with staph infections, special lab tests may need to be done to determine if staph is colonizing or hiding on your body.  If so this condition may be treated under the supervision of your healthcare provider.

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