Let’s Go to the …… Hospital!

Underarm boils are a pain in the …… armpit. If you have ever suffered from them, you’ll know what I am talking about. It’s no frikken fun. I had one about three years ago while living in the US and ended up in the Emergency Room after thinking that one of my lymph nodes had exploded – yeah, I get paranoid like that at times. Following that unpleasant experience, I didn’t have any more recurrences until I moved to the Philippines. And then, it came back with a vengeance…..

Ever the eager (if very amateur) videographer, I used the experience to put together a little video. Here at myphilippinedreams, we try to give prospective expats (those thinking of retirement here or looking for somewhere exotic to work remotely from) an inkling of what life and resources are like here. Plus – ever pragmatic – I also saw it as an opportunity to kill two hunstman spiders with one stone.


Entering Silliman Hospital
Entering Silliman Hospital


The short story is that I got one initial big infection on my bicep. (You can see it in the video if you choose to do so – if not, just skip that part.) From there, the staph infection moved to my armpit and eventually I had about six or seven painful boils growing under there. The video I took of the infection site was taken about a week before I went to the doctor – it had gotten a lot worse by the time I went. Now, I had had a single boil jump up a month before, so I knew what antibiotics I was supposed to take. I tried them again, but they weren’t working, so it was off to the hospital…

I saw two doctors in all. The first doctor correctly diagnosed what I had (hidradenitis suppurtiva) but the antibiotics he prescribed were not the right ones to acutely address that infection. The first doctor also said that if the antibiotics did not work, I might require the surgical removal of the sweat glands in that pit which would cost about 15,000 pesos. Not too expensive, considering, and at least I would save about 50% on future antiperspirant purchases. 🙂


Professional and polite staff!
Professional and polite staff!


Freaking out about having to have surgery, I went and saw a second doctor the next day. He also correctly diagnosed it, but prescribed different antibiotics. I then went home, fired up Google, and did my research. Sure enough, the meds the second doctor had prescribed were the right ones for targeting suppurtiva. So, I went and picked them up, took them as prescribed, and within five days the area had cleared up.


Chatting with the doctor.
Chatting with the doctor.


About a month later and it’s still clear. I don’t use deodorant/antiperspirant right now (am trying to see if that had something to do with it). I was a little concerned about that but found out that I actually don’t stink all that much without it. And belieive me, I’d know – I have a big ass Kano nose that it sensitive to such things….

The cost of the first doctor was 400 pesos for the office visit and about 1,000 pesos for the meds. The cost of the second doctor was 200 pesos and the meds were about 700 pesos. I am glad that I got the second opinion as those antibiotics he prescribed worked very well (and very quickly), and I am also glad that I had the Google to double check both the diagnosis and the appropriate medications.


Nice, clean hospital!
Nice, clean hospital!


As you can see, the hospital is very clean and actually has that antiseptic smell of an American hospital. The staff there are also very polite and professional. The doctor was also very professional, immediately diagnosed it, but the antibiotics he prescribed were not ones used to specifically target the bacteria responsible for suppurtiva. It might be that he was going to wait until he saw how the less powerful antibiotics he prescribed were going to work before prescribing something stronger.

Medical care in the Philippines in something that you have to keep in mind if you are thinking of moving here. Normal day-to-day care is quite up to par here, but if you have a serious condition that requires constant medical supervision, you might find that the local services won’t fulfill your needs. As I have noted before, make sure you fully (and objectively) assess your needs before deciding to make any major moves.


** Ever dreamed of moving to a tropical land to live under sun-kissed skies? Do you have itchy feet, a pension or retirement, or have a job that you can work via the internet? Join us at myphilillinedreams to learn the pro’s and con’s of making such a move**


  1. The surgeon was correct in that erythromycin is generally ineffective against staph a, which is overwhelmingly likely the organism involved. Their are several good medicine alternatives. I would have suggested Bactrim (TMP/SMX). It is quite cheap and 98% effective. Monocycline or daptomycin are two more expensive choices. I would have suggested an incision & drainage also; open it up, drain it and pack it with gauze. Glad to hear you are doing fine in any case.

  2. I had the same problem when I moved to Southeast Asia 18 years ago, had to stop using deodorant, and haven’t now for the last 15 years – just use a good deodorant bar soap and shower twice a day.

    1. I only get funky smelling in the gym. The rest of the time I am fine. When I visit the states I might try deodorants again – they only have antiperspiratnts here and that might have something to do with the boil infestation I experienced.

  3. I forgot to mention – since stopping use of deodorant the problem has never reoccurred. Locals here don’t use it either – so join the club.

  4. When l was a child growing up in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia l used to get boils fairly regularly on my backside, Mum used to wait until the boil developed from a red pussy lump to one with a black dot in the centre, then she would squeeze the crap out of it until the black dot (the core) came out, then wash it in warm salty water, then put Ungvita ointment on it with gauze on top to draw out any remain puss.
    She said l got them because we could not get fresh vegetables in Darwin in those days, most food came up from down south canned.
    She learnt this treatment from her mother when she grew up in Wyndham, Western Australia in the 30’s.
    May be antibiotics are not necessary just proper hygiene (shower twice a day – don’t always use hot water) and diet (fresh fruit and vegetables).

    1. I shower 3-5 times a day depending on how hot it is. I also eat a lot of fruits and fresh veggies. I think it has a lot to do with the heat and humidity here and the strange bacteria that are hanging about. Thankfully, since using the last batch of antibiotics, I have not had any further issues. Boils are no fun – and having a bunch of them in your armpit is the sucks.


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