Hair follicles are sacs in the skin from which hair growth takes place. When there is an infection in any follicle, it gets inflamed and is filled up with pus. This condition is commonly known as folliculitis. It occurs mostly in legs, buttock, scalp and the beard area. People of any age group can get this infection and those who live in humid climates are more prone to it.
The bacteria named Staphylococcus aureus mainly infects the follicles. It is also triggered by another form of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa which is found in pools, whirlpools or spas that are not disinfected regularly. Sometimes, fungus can attack the follicles too. Certain physical conditions like repetitive friction against the skin surface, wearing of tight clothing, wound dressings, excessive sweating are responsible for this kind of infection. In men, a type of folliculitis often develops in the beard area after a hair curls back into the skin surface. Such an infection tends to spread very rapidly to other parts of the body if the area is scratched or the curled hair is plucked.
An infected follicle looks very similar to a pimple and gives a lot of pain. Before the eruption of the bump, one feels itching sensation in the area. In general, the size of the boil increases very fast. Initially, its size is as small as a pin head which may later on, grow to the size of a pea. In some cases, it can become as big as a golf ball. The center of the boil turns white or yellow in color. The site of infection becomes very painful and it worsens as the boil gets bigger. The pain subsides once the pus is drained out. After a few days, a crust develops on its surface. Some people may get fever and general weakness due to the infection.
A minor infection may not require any treatment at all. However, if it has painful symptoms, then it should be treated by a doctor. An infection that covers only a small portion of the skin surface can be cured with the help of topical antibiotic creams which has to be applied directly on the boils. When the site of infection is larger, doctors prescribe suitable antiseptics which comes in the form of lotions or creams. These medicines should be applied as per the instructions of the doctor after cleaning the area properly. Before touching the infected spot, one must ensure that the hands are thoroughly washed. In case, it recurs very frequently, antibiotic tablets are given to eliminate the infection causing bacteria. In those cases where the accumulated pus does not drain out on its own even after application of the medicines, surgical incision is made at the center of the bump to release the pus. If you have folliculitis on scalp, doctors recommend use of antibacterial shampoos to keep the scalp clean.
Along with the medicines, you can try out one or two home remedies to ensure a faster recovery. They are as follows:
Warm Compression: A warm compression on the follicle can speed up the healing process of the infection. Take a clean washcloth, dip it into warm water and place it over the infected part for about five minutes. It should be done several times in a day. Make sure both your hands and the washcloth used are disinfected properly. If it gives a constant itchy sensation, then you can mix equal quantities of vinegar and warm water and use the solution for compression.
Tea Tree Oil: You cannot use the pure form of this oil as it irritates the skin. You have to dilute it with jojoba oil before using it. Apply the oil 3-4 times everyday on the infection to get a quick relief from its annoying symptoms.
Keep the affected part of the skin clean by washing it with mild antibacterial soap and warm water. After each session of cleaning and application of medicine, it should be covered up with a fresh bandage. You must wash your hands thoroughly after and before touching the area so that the infection does not get spread to any other part of the body.