You can get rid of a small boil with the help of home treatments, like covering the boil in a wet washcloth. Larger or recurrent boils require medical attention and medical treatment.
Bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can cause bumps on your skin, commonly known as boils. Boils are typically red or purplish, and they can be quite painful.
Boils are usually found on a hair follicle that’s become infected, but they can occur anywhere on the body.
They tend to appear in areas that are irritated and have more sweat around the hair follicles. This combination provides the perfect atmosphere for boils.
Read on to learn how to treat boils, whether small or large.
Fast facts about boils
- Boils are also known as furuncles.
- When a boil starts out, it will be pea-sized. After a period of time, it will grow larger, fill with pus, and become more painful. The skin around the boil may also be swollen.
- The very top of the bump will eventually have a yellowish-white tip. This tip will eventually burst and begin leaking pus.
- Several boils together in a group are referred to as a carbuncle. If you have a carbuncle, you may also have a fever and not feel well in general.
Here are a few tips for getting rid of a small boil:
- Avoid squeezing the boil or trying to drain it yourself. Doing so could lead the infection to spread or possibly cause a secondary infection of the boil.
- Place a warm, wet washcloth on the boil several times a day.
- Add some pressure by holding the washcloth in place without directly puncturing the boil.
- Once the boil ruptures naturally, keep it covered with a fresh, clean bandage or gauze. This will help keep the infection from spreading to other places.
- Wash your hands well after caring for your boil. This also helps prevent the infection from spreading.
If you have a large boil or a group of boils (carbunculosis), seek medical treatment. Only a healthcare professional can safely drain a large boil or carbuncle.
Sometimes a large boil becomes soft and won’t burst on its own. A healthcare professional can take care of this issue by carefully draining the boil.
In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection. This is especially true for face boils. They run a higher risk of complications like scarring or secondary infection.
If you have boils that keep returning more than three times in a year, you have recurrent furunculosis. Recurrent furunculosis usually spreads more easily, especially among members of the same household.
The boils of recurrent furunculosis often appear in areas where the skin folds. This includes:
Recurrent furunculosis must be treated by a doctor. Treatment options include antibiotics and surgical drainage.
Boils, even ones caused by recurrent furunculosis, usually have few complications.
The main complication is scarring.
Another complication is the possibility of recurrent furunculosis. See a doctor if you have recurrent boils in skin folds.
The development of a secondary infection isn’t as common. Secondary infection can lead to sepsis, which is the body’s reaction to bacteria in the blood. But sepsis is a very rare complication. You can avoid sepsis by getting proper treatment early.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic condition that can resemble recurrent furunculosis. But it’s actually more serious.
Hidradenitis suppurativa can lead to scarring and worsening when it’s not recognized and treated appropriately. Possible treatment options include antibiotics and biologic drugs.
You can’t always prevent a boil from occurring. But you can prevent a boil from spreading to other parts of your body and to other people.
Follow these tips:
- Keep the boil covered with a clean bandage at all times.
- Any time you or someone else comes into contact with your boil for any reason, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Clean the boil as well.
- When you have a boil, washing and keeping your clothes and bedding clean can also help prevent the spread of the infection:
- Wash your clothes and bedding in hot water. Using bleach along with the detergent can help as well.
- When drying, be sure to set your dryer to high heat.
- Regularly clean and disinfect all surfaces that you may touch. This includes doorknobs, toilet seats, bathtubs, and commonly used surfaces throughout the home.
- Avoid sharing items that come into contact with your skin, like razors, athletic equipment, and towels.