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Carbuncles are tender, inflamed lumps that are usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, infections. Masses appear just under the surface of the skin and produce pus-filled boils. Most small carbuncles eventually go away on their own in two to three weeks, though home carbuncle treatment remedies can significantly reduce symptoms and overall healing time. Keeping the carbuncle clean, applying a warm compress, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and swelling. Very large or persistent boils require medical care at a hospital or dermatologist's office to avoid permanent scarring and other complications.
The primary goal of home carbuncle treatment is to promote fast, thorough drainage of boils. Doctors strongly warn against trying to pop carbuncles, however, as doing so could spread the bacteria and leave a permanent scar. Instead, drainage can be induced with moist heat. An individual can apply a warm compress or a damp washcloth to the affected area of skin several times a day. In addition to speeding up drainage, the heat has a soothing effect on the tender skin.
Keeping infected boils clean is an important element of carbuncle treatment as well. Since a person's immune system is already weakened due to staph infection, other bacteria that come into contact with an open boil can more easily invade the body and worsen symptoms. Washcloths and compresses should be thoroughly cleaned between each use, and the carbuncle itself should be cleaned regularly with hand soap and water. With proper carbuncle treatment, boils usually crust over within a few days and disappear in a couple of weeks.
If home remedies are not effective at relieving symptoms after about three weeks, an individual should schedule an appointment with a doctor to learn about other forms of carbuncle treatment. A trained physician can drain large carbuncles manually by making precision cuts or punctures in individual boils and carefully drawing out pus. After draining boils, he or she cleans the area with antibacterial soap and dresses the wounds with gauze. A patient may also be prescribed an oral antibiotic to treat the underlying staph infection.
Staph infections are highly contagious, and bacteria can be spread to others through direct contact, sharing utensils, or handling contaminated objects. A person with an active infection can take precautions to minimize the chances of spreading the bacteria. It is important to wash the hands regularly and use disinfectant soaps or sprays on shared counter tops, doorknobs, phones, and computer keyboards. An individual should also avoid sharing toiletries and towels with others until infection symptoms fully subside.