Small boils can usually be treated on your own at home. Small boils that can be treated at home can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks to heal.
Tips for getting rid of a boil include the following:
- Do not squeeze or try to drain a boil yourself. This can lead to a spread of the infection or possibly cause a secondary infection of the boil.
- Place a warm, wet washcloth on the boil several times a day.
- Add some pressure when holding the washcloth in place without directly puncturing the boil.
- Once the boil ruptures naturally, keep it covered with a bandage or gauze. This will keep the infection from spreading to other places.
- Wash your hands well after caring for your boil. This is also to prevent the infection from spreading.
If you have a large boil or a group of boils (carbunculosis), you will want to see your doctor for treatment. Only your doctor can drain a large boil or carbuncle safely. Also, sometimes a large boil becomes soft and won’t burst on its own. This is another issue your doctor can take care of by carefully draining it.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection. This is especially the case with face boils, since they run a higher risk of complications such a secondary infection or scarring.
If you have boils that keep returning more than three times in a year, it’s called recurrent furunculosis. Recurrent furunculosis usually spreads more easily, especially among members of your family, since it reoccurs often. Many times, the boils of recurrent furunculosis are found in areas where your skin folds. These areas include under the breasts, under the stomach, in the underarms, and in the groin area.
Recurrent furunculosis should be treated by a doctor in the same way as other large boils.
You can’t always prevent a boil from occurring. You can, however, prevent a boil from spreading to other parts of your body and to others. Prevention tips include:
- Keep the boil covered with a bandage at all times.
- Any time you or someone else comes into contact with your boil for any reason, you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- When you have a boil, washing and keeping your clothes and bedding clean can also help prevent it from spreading. These items should be washed in hot water, and adding bleach along with the detergent can help as well. When drying them, be sure to set your dryer to high heat.
- Keep all surfaces that you may touch cleaned and disinfected regularly. These things include door knobs, the seat of the toilet, the bath tub, and commonly used surfaces throughout the home.
- Avoid sharing items that come into contact with the skin. These items can include razors, athletic equipment, and towels.
Boils, or furuncles, are bumps on your skin that are red and can be quite painful. They are caused by bacteria. The name of this type of bacteria is staphylococcus aureus. After a period of time, boils will become filled with pus. They are usually found on a hair follicle that has become infected. However, they can be anywhere on your body.
These areas tend to have more sweat around the hair follicles and also some type of irritation. This combination provides the perfect atmosphere for a boil to eventually appear. If there are several boils together in a group, that is called a carbuncle.
When it starts out, a boil will be pea-sized, and red. As it fills with pus it will grow and become more painful. The skin around the boil will also be red and possibly swollen. The very top of the bump will eventually have a tip on it that is yellowish-white in color. After some time, this tip will burst and begin leaking pus. You may also have a fever and not feel well in general if you have a carbuncle.
Boils, including those that are recurrent, usually have few complications. The main complication is scarring.
Other complications include the possibility of boils leading to recurrent furunculosis. Further, some people may have a condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa. This condition can resemble recurrent boils, but it’s actually chronic and more serious. It can lead to scarring and worsening when not recognized and treated appropriately. See a physician if you have recurrent boils in skin folds.
Not as common is the development of a secondary infection from the boil. This secondary infection can then lead to, in rare occasions, sepsis, which is blood poisoning. However, sepsis is a very rare complication and can be avoided by getting proper treatment early.