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About 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, 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, 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.

Folliculitis, Boils, and Carbuncles | Symptoms & Causes

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

Folliculitis, Boils, and Carbuncles | Diagnosis & Treatments

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.

How do we treat folliculitis, boils, and carbuncles?

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.

Folliculitis, Boils, and Carbuncles | Programs & Services