What is a boil?

A boil is a swollen, red, sore bump beneath the skin. It often appears the same to an oversized pimple. Boils are frequently triggered by hair follicles that become infected. The bacteria from the infection forms an abscess or pus pocket. Remember that it can grow large to trigger significant pain.

Boils most often develop if there is hair and rubbing. The neck, face, armpits, groin, breasts and buttocks are the usual sites where boils can develop.

How to deal with a boil

A boil can be sometimes cared for at home with the following measures in mind:

  • Avoid squeezing, draining, scratching or opening the boil. Squeezing it will only drive the infection deep into the skin.
  • Carefully cleanse the area using water and soap twice in a day. After cleansing, dry it properly.
  • Place a warm, moist cloth over the boil for 20-30 minutes at 3-4 times in a day. This can be done as soon as a boil is noticed. The moisture and heat can help the boil open and drain, but it can take up to 5-7 days. A warm compress can also be placed over the damp towel.

    Place a warm, moist cloth over the boil for 20-30 minutes at 3-4 times in a day.

  • Continue to use heat for 3 days after the boil opens. Apply a bandage on it so that the drainage will not spread. Make sure that bandages are changed daily.
  • In case the boil is draining on its own, allow it. Continue to clean at least twice a day using water and soap.
  • Avoid sharing towels or face cloths with others to prevent the spread of infection.

The doctor might decide to create a small opening in the boil so that it can drain. This procedure is called as lancing of the boil. The doctor will numb the area first and gauze is sometimes placed in the cut so that it remains open and continues to drain.

Antibiotics are prescribed to stop the infection. The antibiotics must be taken as directed. The individual should continue taking them even if he/she feels better or the boil looks improved. The full course of antibiotics must be completed.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor should be consulted if the following are present:

  • It develops on the face, near the anus or close to the spine
  • Continues to grow bigger
  • Fever
  • There are other lumps close to the boil especially if they are sore
  • There is significant pain
  • Area around appears red or has reddened streaks radiating away from it
  • Individual has diabetes
  • Grows up to the size of a ping pong ball
  • Does not improve after 5-7 days of treatment at home
  • Several bumps develop over a span of several months


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