A carbuncle is a lesion that appears on the skin as a small mass of interconnecting abscesses. These boil-like eruptions are due to a bacterial infection of closely spaced hair follicles. Carbuncles are usually red in appearance and feel sore but not painful. Those with the infection often feel mildly ill and sometimes suffer from fever. Carbuncles usually heal within two weeks without treatment. Scarring may occur in some cases. Home treatment includes warm compresses and topical antibiotic cream application. You can lance a carbuncle at home, but physicians usually perform this procedure when it is necessary.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Antibacterial soap
- White lint-free towel
- White wash rag
- Plastic baggie
- Topical antibiotic cream
- Medical Tape
Scrub your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap before you touch the carbuncle. Dry your hands thoroughly on a soft clean lint free towel.
Wash the carbuncle and surrounding skin with warm water and liquid antibacterial soap. Gently cleanse the area without putting pressure on the lesion. Allow the area to air dry.
Prepare a warm compress. Soak a small washcloth in clean warm water. Place the washcloth in a plastic baggie. Place the bag with the seal open in the microwave and heat it for 30 seconds. Place the baggie in a small towel that completely covers it in a single layer.
Wait a few moments for the moisture from the washcloth in the baggie to penetrate through the towel covering. Place the towel containing the baggie and washcloth over the affected skin. Allow the towel to remain for 10 minutes before removing. Reapply a warm compress several times a day to promote the draining of pus.
Dry the area in with a soft white cloth without putting pressure on the infected area. Alternately, you can allow the skin to air dry.
Apply a thin coating of antibiotic cream to the carbuncle and immediate surrounding area. This topical application will help heal the infection and prevent spreading.
Bandage the lesion with a loose piece of gauze held on with medical tape.
Tips and warnings
- Apply a lotion containing vitamin E or aloe-vera to the skin once the carbuncle has healed to help reduce scarring.
- You can apply warm compresses several times a day to speed healing and relieve discomfort.
- Do not squeeze a carbuncle to drain it as this may spread the infection.
- Do not lance a carbuncle at home to remove it. Moist compresses and topical antibiotics should help it heal quickly. Consult a physician to remove it if the lesion is large or especially troublesome.
- Consult a physician if you run a fever higher than 37.8 degrees C, if there is excessive swelling and redness persists in the area of the carbuncle, if you suffer nausea or dizziness or if the area does not heal after two weeks.
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