Folliculitis and boils are two skin conditions that are more common in people with Down syndrome than in people without Down syndrome. The article below describes these conditions, how they are diagnosed and treated, and strategies to prevent them.
What are folliculitis and boils?
Folliculitis is an infection or inflammation of the hair follicles (the tiny openings from which hairs grow) caused by bacteria or sometimes fungi. Small red bumps or white pimples may appear on the skin, and these can be itchy, tender, and/or swollen. Folliculitis can occur wherever there is hair on the body, but it is commonly experienced on the face, back, and chest.
When infections around the hair follicles spread deeper, boils can occur. Boils are painful, pus-filled bumps that form under the skin. Common sites where boils appear are the armpits, groin area, buttocks, thighs, and along the waist band or bra line.
What can you do to prevent folliculitis and boils?
Some steps that may be helpful in preventing folliculitis and boils and promote good skin health overall are listed below.
- To decrease bacterial load on the skin:
- Apply baby powder to areas prone to folliculitis or boils to keep the areas dry and reduce friction with clothing and other materials.
- For individuals who have severe and recurrent boils, taking a daily antibiotic such as amoxicillin or tetracycline may be helpful.
What treatments are recommended?
- When a boil first appears, apply heat to allow the body's natural defenses aid in ridding infection. We recommend sore muscle heat patches such as ThermaCare because they stay warm for 8 hours or more and do not need to be plugged in (like a heating pad) or warmed in the microwave.
- When a boil occurs and may open or is open, apply a triple antibiotic cream, such as Neosporin, and cover with a bandage. This keeps the area clean and helps minimize scarring.
- If the boil is painful, a topical cream such as Boil-Ease (which contains 20% benzocaine) can be used to reduce discomfort. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can also be taken.
- If a boil is extremely painful, the individual has a fever, or swelling and redness extend, the boil should be examined by a healthcare professional, as these are signs that there may be spreading infection. The boil may need to be drained. A course of oral antibiotics may also be prescribed. Infrequently, hospitalization and IV antibiotics become necessary.
Additional resources on skin and hair conditions in people with Down syndrome can be found in this section
of our Resource Library.
The Guide to Good Health for Teens & Adults with Down Syndrome (Chicoine, McGuire)
Folliculitis, Boils, and Carbuncles (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Folliculitis (Mayo Clinic)
Boils and Carbuncles (Mayo Clinic)