A boil is an infection of a hair follicle. It’s also called a furuncle. When white blood cells come to fight the infection, pus collects under the skin. What started as a red lump becomes a painful eruption.

Boils are common. They may occur in hair follicles anywhere on the body but typically occur in areas where hair and sweat coexist, such as the:

Yes, sometimes boils can recur. The presence of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus causes many cases of boils. Once present, the body and skin may be more susceptible to reinfection.

A 2015 study found that around 10 percent of people with a boil or abscess had a repeat infection within a year.

While this is a relatively low percentage, the study was only conducted through medical records. Those who had repeat boils may or may not have visited a doctor if they developed another boil.

You may be more at risk for recurring boils if you:

You can often treat a boil at home. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Keep the area clean and free of any irritants.
  2. Don’t pick or attempt to pop the boil.
  3. Apply a warm compress to the boil several times a day.
  4. Don’t reuse or share cloths used for compresses.

A warm compress will help pull out the pus inside the boil. This can help the boil drain on its own.

If you attempt to pop or lance the boil yourself, you’ll put the area at risk of further or worse infection.

Recurrent painful boil-like lesions may be a sign of hidradenitis suppuritiva. This condition most often occurs in areas where skin rubs together, like the armpits, groin, anal region, or inner thighs. Left untreated, it can lead to abscesses, deep tracts, and fibrotic scars.

Hidradenitis suppuritiva has no cure, but can be treated with antibiotics, biologics, steroids, or surgery. Lancing these boils isn’t recommended. Early diagnosis is important as treatments are specialized and depend on the severity of disease.

If you develop boils in the areas mentioned above, talk with a dermatologist.

If you have recurring boils, tell your doctor. Recurring boils may point to MRSA infection or an increase in other types of staph bacteria in the body.

If you have several boils in the same place, you may be developing a carbuncle. See your doctor for a carbuncle. It may be a sign of a larger infection in the body.

Also visit your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • hot, red skin around the boil
  • fever
  • long-lasting boil
  • extreme pain
  • boil on spine or face

If your boil doesn’t go away or improve in 2 weeks, consult your doctor. They might recommend a surgical incision and drainage.

Doctors will make a small cut at the top of the boil. This is known as lancing. They’ll extract pus with sterile tools. If the boil is too large for all the pus to completely drain, it may be packed with gauze.

Preventing boils has a lot to do with your personal hygiene routine. Keep yourself clean and free of excess sweat as much as possible. Avoid clothing that causes chafing.

To further prevent the chance of a boil recurring, you can also do the following:

  • Avoid sharing towels or washcloths with anyone.
  • Avoid sharing razors or topical deodorants.
  • Frequently clean bathtubs, toilet seats, and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Cover any existing boils with clean bandages.
  • Bathe regularly, especially after sweating.

Boils do have the possibility to recur. If you have recurring boils, contact your doctor to diagnose the reason of the recurrence.

Your doctor can help treat the current boil and put together a course of action to prevent it from returning, such as hygiene adjustment or antibiotic treatment.