How to Treat Boils/Abscess on Infants
Babies have sensitive skin, and their immune systems are still in the developing stages. This implies that they are more vulnerable to infections. To top this, if the weather conditions are unfavourable, babies may develop outbreaks or rashes on their skin in the form of boils.
In such a scenario, it is crucial to maintain proper hygiene and keep the baby’s skin cool to prevent the situation from worsening. You may also like to consider changing the baby products you are using on your baby, like bathing soap, oil or lotion, and talcum powder. The boils may become painful or serious if not treated on time.
What Are Boils?
A boil is a tender lump that appears on the skin because of an infection in an oil gland or hair follicle. The infection commonly occurs because of a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria lives on our skin, and in our nose and mouth. Skin normally acts as a barrier to these bacteria, preventing them from entering the body and causing infections.
When we get a scrape, cut or bite, the bacteria makes its way in. This bacteria goes into the body through small cracks on the skin or from the hair to the follicle. This infection develops into a boil. When the baby’s skin gets affected by this bacteria, the body responds by sending white blood cells to fight the bacteria. The build-up of the white blood cells, dead bacteria and skin form a mixture, known as pus.
In the beginning, the affected skin becomes red, and a lump appears. With time, the lump may turn white as pus starts to accumulate under the skin. The formation of pus can make the boil quite painful.
Boils erupt on the face, back, neck, shoulders, thighs, and buttocks. In some cases, babies may have a fever as well. Heat boils on babies can be cured using home remedies; but in case of any doubts, it is better to seek medical help.
Are Boils in Babies Contagious?
Boils that contain pus can be contagious. Pus boils occur due to an infection in the hair follicle by staph bacteria. Pus boils begin as tiny sore lumps, but they grow bigger with time and get filled with pus. Not only can they spread on other areas of the baby’s body, but they can also infect any person who comes in contact with the baby. This infection is also transmissible through the sharing of towels, bedsheets, and toothbrushes.
Multiple pus boils are called a carbuncle. Pus boils on babies can appear on any part of their body as hair follicles are present on all skin. However, they are more likely to appear on parts that are susceptible to sweat and friction, like the face, neck, armpits, thighs and buttocks. This is why many moms have observed that pus boils usually occur in babies during the summer and rainy seasons.
How Long Do Infant Boils Last?
When a boil occurs, a tender lump forms on the baby’s skin and it grows bigger and redder with time. It starts filling up with pus in about 1 week’s time since its appearance. If left to the body’s natural defence mechanisms, it may begin to subside within a couple of weeks. In case the boil does not disappear or show any signs of subsiding even after two weeks, it is wise to seek medical assistance.
Causes of Boils in Babies
Certain medical conditions can also expose a baby to a greater risk of developing boils. They are:
- Lack of good personal hygiene
- Low immunity
- Lack of necessary nutrients in the body
- Anaemia or iron deficiency
- Chemical exposure from use of harsh soaps, creams or detergents, resulting in skin irritation
- Unfavourable weather conditions like extreme heat or humidity
Signs and Symptoms of Boils in Infants
Some of the signs and symptoms of boils in infants are:
- The affected skin around the boil tends to become swollen and red
- Baby can develop a fever in some cases
- Multiple boils may form near the spot where the first boil appeared
- The lymph glands around the boil may swell up
The doctor may conduct a thorough physical examination of the baby’s body to establish if the infection has spread to other areas of the body. The doctor may also test a wad of the boil to rule out any other underlying medical reasons for the appearance of boils. After analysing all the factors, the doctor will present their diagnosis.
Infant boils normally do not lead to any complications and do not require medical intervention. However, if a boil is squeezed or pierced open, it may lead to some scarring. If the boil grows very big, it may form cellulite and may need to be treated with antibiotics. In case the boil turns into a carbuncle and shows no signs of disappearing, surgery may be suggested. You may want to take extra care when dealing with pus boils, as they are contagious.
Recurrent Boils on Babies
Occasionally, babies can be troubled with recurring boils. This may not be a cause for concern unless you notice a pattern in relation to other infections in your baby. Recurrent boils may be contagious as the bacteria living on the skin are transferred from one body to the other easily. Therefore, it is essential to find out if someone in your family has boils, and if they have accidentally passed the bacteria on to your baby.
It is important to regularly clean the affected area properly with a suitable antiseptic to prevent the infection from spreading. In case the boil bursts, wipe the area clean with some cotton and antiseptic wash. On drying, cover it with gauze or dressing to prevent the baby from touching it. Resist the temptation to squeeze or pierce the boil as this may result in scarring and spreading of infection to the surrounding areas.
If the boils seem to be growing bigger or spreading, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Bear in mind to complete the whole course even if the boils fade away, lest there is a relapse. You can also apply an anti-infective cream on the boils after consulting your doctor. In some cases, the doctor may suggest surgically opening the boil and draining the pus out. This procedure may be done under the influence of anaesthesia.
Boils on the baby’s head can be treated by rubbing alcohol on the area. This will disinfect the area and can heal the boils that may have developed because of a simple infection. In case of multiple boils on the head, the probable cause is heat and warm, humid weather. In such a scenario, applying coconut oil can prove very useful as it has cooling properties.
Home Remedies to Cure Boils
In most cases, boils heal on their own in a few days’ time. Nevertheless, you can also try the following home remedies to quicken the healing course:
1. Warm compress
For instant relief from pain, a warm compress can be placed on the affected area for a few minutes. This action can be repeated a few times during the day. This may also help the pus to ooze out of the boil, after which the healing can begin.
2. Honey therapy
Applying honey to the boil can be a good idea as honey is a natural antiseptic.
3. Porridge compress
You can also try porridge treatment. Make a warm compress by wrapping porridge in a clean cotton cloth and dipping it in hot milk. Porridge efficiently reduces inflammation, thereby quickening the healing process.
4. Parsley leaves
You can also use a compress of parsley leaves – simply boil them till they turn soft and drain off the extra water to make a compress. Applying this compress to the boil can help heal sooner.
Putting turmeric powder on the boils can also prove useful in treating them due to its antiseptic properties.
6. A mix of onion and garlic juice
If a boil ruptures, you can put a concoction of onion and garlic juice on it. This can not only destroy bacteria but also accelerate the healing.
Preventing Baby Boils
Certain things may be practised to avoid boils on your baby.
- Maintain proper hygiene in your baby
- Make sure your baby is having healthy and balanced meals
- Wash hands repeatedly while handling the baby
- Regularly change the baby’s towels and bedsheets, wash baby clothes with hot water
- To prevent boils from spreading further, keep dressing them and change the dressing from time to time. Bear in mind to dispose of it carefully
- In case the pus boil bursts, clean it properly and ensure that the pus doesn’t come in contact with other areas of the baby’s body
- Keep a lookout for any signs of new boils appearing on the baby’s body
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
You may like to consult the doctor if:
- The baby develops a fever
- The boils start growing in size and become painful
- The boil is on your baby’s face
- The boils show no signs of fading away even after two weeks
- The boils are recurring and spreading to other areas of the body
- The baby’s lymph nodes swell up
- The boils get filled with pus
The appearance of boils on babies is usually not a very worrisome situation. The body’s natural defence system usually takes care of it. But in case you feel that the boils are not subsiding and are spreading to other parts of the body, it may indicate some other underlying medical condition. In such a case, it is always advisable to seek medical treatment.