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Folliculitis
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Folliculitis

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WOMEN'S HEALTH

Hair/Nails/Skin

With common names like hot tub folliculitis and barber'sitch, folliculitis may sound more like a bad joke than a skin disorder. But this infection of the hair follicles is no laughing matter. Severe cases may cause permanent hair loss and scarring, and even mild infections can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Folliculitis usually appears as small, white-headed pimples around one or more hair follicles - the tiny pockets from which each individual hair grows. Most infections are superficial, affecting just the upper part of the follicle, and although they may itch, they're seldom painful. The pimples can occur almost anywhere on your body, but they are especially common on the face, scalp, thighs, legs and in the groin area.

Prevention

Although it's not always possible to prevent folliculitis, these measures may help keep you infection-free:

  • Avoid constricting clothing. Tight clothes — especially jeans and athletic wear — may be stylish, but make sure they don't chafe your skin.
  • Shave with care. Use an electric razor or a new blade every time you shave. Be especially careful to keep the shaved area clean and to avoid cuts and nicks. If you're a woman who gets frequent infections, you may want to consider depilatories or other methods of hair removal.
  • Maintain hot tubs. If you own a hot tub, clean it regularly and add chlorine when recommended. Use commercial tubs only if you're sure they're well maintained.
Self-care

Mild cases of folliculitis often respond well to home care. The following suggestions may help relieve discomfort, speed healing and prevent the infection from spreading:

  • Apply a warm, moist washcloth or compress to the affected area.
  • Try an oatmeal lotion or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to help soothe itchy skin.
  • Gently wash the infected skin twice a day with antibacterial soap or apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.
  • Avoid shaving irritated skin. If you must shave, use an electric razor rather than a blade, and apply a soothing aftershave lotion when you're finished.
  • To help a boil or carbuncle burst and drain more quickly, apply a soft cloth soaked in warm salt water to the affected area for about 30 minutes several times a day. Prepare the salt water by adding one teaspoon of salt to one quart of boiling water. Let cool until comfortably warm.
  • Don't share your towels or washcloths, and launder them in plenty of hot, soapy water after every use. Wash clothes that cover the affected areas after each wearing.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:40 AM