With a name like folliculitis, it sounds like something really serious, doesnt it? The reality is that while not life threatening, if can make you a bit uncomfortable for a while. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicle which appears as little pimples filled with pus. Sometimes known as a razor bumps or hot tub rash, folliculitis has a number of different causes and all of them result in itchiness and on occasion, some pain.
Most cases of folliculitis clear up within a few days because they are superficial but there are instances when this skin infection runs deeper than the hair follicle and needs additional treatment. The superficial form of folliculitis occurs often after a shave or even a soak in the hot tub. When you shave, sometimes the stubble of hair becomes ingrown, forming the small pimple-like formations. Its itchy and red but within a few days, it clears.
With the hot tub version of folliculitis, a special bacterium called pseudomonas aeruginosa is often found in hot tubs, pools used for therapy, water slides and even loofah. It is the water that is typically contaminated due to improper chlorine levels and the folliculitis is most prevalent where your swimming suit adheres to the skin.
Signs and Symptoms
As mentioned above, superficial folliculitis forms these groups of red bumps around the infected hair follicles that appear like a red rash. These bumps eventually form tiny pimple-like formations that often fill with pus, similar to a blister. Eventually these bumps break open, weep out the pus and crust over. There is itchiness and sometimes, the area is slightly tender to the touch.
There are more serious cases called deep folliculitis as well which could form into a boil or worse, a carbuncle which is a cluster of boils. Signs that you may have or are forming a boil caused by deep folliculitis include a big swollen area, typically infected by staph bacteria. This area forms a tender, red mass filled with pus which eventually forms a solid white head. If you are lucky, it ruptures and drains out the infection. If you are unlucky, the infection gets worse and more boils form requiring medical intervention.
As mentioned before, hot tubs and shaving are two causes of folliculitis. However, there are several other instances where folliculitis can occur such as excessive sweating, adhesive from band aids or surgical tape which is used to cover wound dressings and even acne and dermatitis. These things can temporarily damage the hair follicle which in turn causes a skin infection.
With superficial folliculitis, you can use anti-itch creams to soothe the itch or even use warm compresses which will help bring these red bumps to a pimple white head. From there, you can gently exfoliate the area, rinse and then apply antibiotic cream. Your folliculitis should disappear within a few days with self-treatment.
However, if you have a deeper case such as a boil or carbuncle, your doctor should be the one to lance it and allow it to drain on sterile gauze. Once drained, it can be treated with antibiotic ointments and covered until healed. In extreme circumstances, oral antibiotics and repeated lancing may be necessary if the infection lingers on in the hair follicle. If this occurs, there may be some scarring and hair loss in the area.
Overall though, folliculitis is just a troublesome skin infection that easily goes away with self-treatment. By avoiding the causes of it, you can avoid the issue all together.