Boils and abscesses are red, pus-filled bumps that form under the skin. They’re often painful, and they grow larger until they are drained. Boils are caused by bacteria that infect and then inflame hair follicles. They can grow to the size of a baseball, and the area surrounding the skin can be red and painful, too.
You shouldn’t pick at or squeeze a boil. If it isn’t drained properly, it could infect nearby areas or push the infection deeper into the skin and cause more boils.
Boils most commonly appear on the face, neck, shoulders, armpits, and buttocks. If drainage is needed, your doctor will make a small incision on the boil and use sterile gauze to absorb and remove additional pus. This should only be done carefully and in a sterile environment.
Many boils can be treated in the comfort of your own home with alternative remedies.
1. Apply heat
Heat helps to increase the circulation in an area, bringing more white blood cells and antibodies to the area to fight the infection, so applying heat to a boil is one of the best home remedies you can use. Apply a warm compress to the area for 20 minutes at a time. Do this three or four times a day, every day, until the boil is gone.
2. Tea tree oil
Tea tree essential oil has strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which can help to treat the bacterial infection causing the boil. Tea tree oil should not be applied directly to the skin, as it can have a burning effect. Mix five drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil. Put diluted tea tree oil on a cotton swab it and apply it to the area two or three times per day. Do this daily until the boil is completely gone.
3. Turmeric powder
Turmeric powder has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can help heal a boil and get rid of it quickly. It’s been used as a natural blood purifier for thousands of years in eastern medicine as a result.
You can choose to ingest turmeric powder, use it topically to treat boils, or both! To ingest it, boil a teaspoon of turmeric powder in water or milk, and drink it three times daily once cooled. To use it topically, mix turmeric with water and/or ginger to make a paste, and apply it to the boil at least twice a day.
4. Epsom salt
Epsom salt isn’t just relaxing; it has numerous health benefits, including the ability to treat boils! The salt can actually help to dry out the pus, causing the boil to drain.
Dissolve Epsom salt in warm water and soak a compress in it. Apply the compress to the area for 20 minutes at a time. Do this at least three times daily until the boil is gone.
5. Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment
You can’t go wrong with an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, many of which are both fast-acting and soothing. Since many people keep a tube of Neosporin in the medicine cabinet, you might not even have to look far to get it. It may also help keep the infection from spreading.
Apply the antibiotic ointment to the boil at least twice a day until the boil is gone.
6. Castor oil
Castor oil contains a compound called ricinoleic acid, which is a natural but potent anti-inflammatory. This, combined with its powerful antibacterial properties, make it a great natural treatment for boils.
Apply a small amount of castor oil directly to the boil at least three times a day until the boil is gone.
7. Neem oil
Neem oil, also known as Indian lilac, has antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties that help treat skin infections — including boils — fast.
To treat boils with neem oil, apply the oil directly to the boil three to four times a day. Make sure you wash your hands before and after application.
When to see your doctor
Sometimes, home remedies won’t be enough to cut it for stubborn boils. You should make an appointment with your doctor if:
- The boil keeps getting larger despite home treatment.
- The boil hasn’t cleared up or diminished after a week of home treatment.
- The boil is as large as a ping-pong ball.
- The skin surrounding the boil is bright red or has red streaks extending from it.
- The boil is extremely painful.
- There are other lumps near the boil.
- You have recurring boils over several months.
- You also have diabetes.
Home remedies can be plenty effective for small boils. Make sure to use them as needed in order to see best results. If you haven’t seen results after five to seven days — or if the boil has gotten larger, more painful, or started to show signs of infection — make an appointment with your doctor. They may drain it by lancing it in-office or prescribe antibiotics.