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Folliculitis Boils and Carbuncles

  • Overview

    Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles due to an infection, injury or irritation. Boils are tender, swollen areas that form around hair follicles, and carbuncles are clusters of boils.

    • Boils often form on the neck, breasts, buttocks and face but can also be located in the waist area, groin, buttocks and under the arms.
    • Carbuncles are usually found in the back of the neck or thigh.
    • Folliculitis, boils and carbuncles all produce pus but have generally different symptoms. Carbuncles may also be accompanied by fever and fatigue.
    • Treatment may include topical antibiotics (for folliculitis), oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics (to treat the infection) or possible removal of the boils and carbuncles.
     
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    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

      617-355-7701
      fax: 617-730-0505


  • In-Depth

    What are folliculitis, boils and carbuncles?

    Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles due to an infection, injury or irritation.

    Boils are tender, swollen areas that form around hair follicles, often on the neck, breasts, buttocks and face. Boils are pus-filled lesions that are painful and usually firm. Boils are usually located in the waist area, groin, buttocks and under the arms.

    Carbuncles are clusters of boils. These are usually found in the back of the neck or thigh.

    What are the symptoms of folliculitis, boils, and carbuncles?

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but folliculitis, boils and carbuncles do have common signs and symptoms.

    Symptoms for folliculitis may include:

    • pus in the hair follicle
    • irritated and red follicles
    • damaged hair

    Symptoms for boils may include:

    • pus in the center of the boil
    • whitish, bloody discharge from the boil

    Symptoms for carbuncles (clusters of boils) may include:

    • pus in the center of the boils
    • whitish, bloody discharge from the boils
    • fever
    • fatigue
  • Tests

    How are folliculitis, boils, and carbuncles diagnosed?

    Diagnosis of folliculitis, boils, and carbuncles are made by your child's physician after a thorough medical history and physical examination. After examining the lesions, your child's physician may culture the wounds by obtaining a sample of the wound drainage, allowing it to grow in the laboratory and identifying specific bacteria. This will help verify the diagnosis and help in selecting the best treatment.

  • Your child's treatment may include:

    • topical antibiotics (for folliculitis)
    • oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics (to treat the infection)
    • possible removal of the boils and carbuncles

    For carbuncles and boils, a warm compress may also be used to help promote drainage of the lesion.

    Carbuncles heal more slowly than a single boil. Keeping the skin clean helps to prevent these conditions from occurring.

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