Heat is Gross

By Grace Muller, AccuWeather.com staff writer
8/11/2011 11:02:32 AM

Dallas-Fort Worth CBS station says the Texas heat wave has been spreading a seriously nasty infection.

What is a carbuncle?

A carbuncle is a skin infection that often involves a group of hair follicles. The infected material forms a lump, which occurs deep in the skin and may contain pus.

Most carbuncles are caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus. The infection is contagious and may spread to other areas of the body or other people.

A carbuncle is made up of several skin boils (furuncles). The infected mass is filled with fluid, pus and dead tissue. Fluid may drain out of the carbuncle, but sometimes the mass is so deep that it cannot drain on its own.

Where do you find them?

Carbuncles can develop anywhere, but they are most common on the back and the nape of the neck. Men get carbuncles more often than women.

Because the condition is contagious, several family members may develop carbuncles at the same time. Often, the cause of a carbuncle cannot be determined.

You are more likely to get a carbuncle if you have poor hygiene or poor health. Friction from clothing or shaving can make them worse.

What do they look like?

Carbuncles are very nasty-looking boils, between the size of a pea and the size of a golfball.

How to treat them

Carbuncles usually must drain before they will heal. This most often occurs on its own in less than two weeks.

Placing a warm, moist cloth on the carbuncle helps it to drain, which speeds healing. Gently soak the area with a warm, moist cloth several times each day. Never squeeze a boil or attempt to cut it open at home because this can spread the infection and make it worse.

You need treatment if the carbuncle lasts longer than two weeks, returns frequently, is located on the spine or the middle of the face or occurs along with a fever or other symptoms. Treatment helps reduce complications related to an infection.