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How to Treat Boils

Updated on May 31, 2013
Shoulder boil that is already draining fluids, it is very contagious at this point so be sure to keep the area clean.
Shoulder boil that is already draining fluids, it is very contagious at this point so be sure to keep the area clean. | Source


You should know that I am not a doctor and that this hub is a compilation of my personal research, and personal experience with boils. If you are attempting to treat a boil, by all means, please see your doctor first. Depending on where your boil is, and how deep the infection has spread, it could develop into a very serious situation. For these reasons and those unforseen, I really urge you to consult your doctor before attempting any home treatment. Peace. Kawi.

What can I say... boils are a huge bummer! They are painful, and occur at the worst time (although I don't think there is any good time for a boil). I've never had one on my 'bum' but I've known people that have, and they all agree that it is one of the worst things that can happen to you.

Depending on the location and the care given a boil, I think that they will all leave some sort of scar - if not physically, definitely mentally. That goes for the person on the squeezing side too. It is totally and wholly gross.

The best thing to do is to act fast before it starts to load up on the infection. You will feel it forming and it will be irritated by how your clothing rubs against it. You'll feel it throughout your day, and when you get home and have the privacy to take a better look at it, you'll see a pus head on the very tip of a small lump. This is the very first stage of a boil.

This hub will discuss a little more into detail about boils and will cover the following topics:

  • What Causes Boils
  • Are Boils Contagious
  • How do You Treat a Boil?
  • You Should See a Doctor...

What Causes Boils

Boils are actually a skin infection that starts in the hair follicle from an in-grown hair or from clogged sweat glands. But it can also form when an object enters the body that doesn't belong, like a splinter that is left under your skin. Even a wound that gets infected can develop into an abscess.

On the surface of the skin, a boil that is starting out will be red and very tender and sensitive. Soon after this it will begin to harden, and get even more sensitive. The middle soon softens as it fills with pus. As white blood cells rush into the area of the infection to fight against the infection, the middle soon fills with bacteria, white blood cells and protein in the form of pus.

The pus then forms a head as infection increases. At this time, the boil may start to leak if the head of the boil is irritated further with clothes or breaks while under bandages.

See your doctor if your boil is large or very painful.
See your doctor if your boil is large or very painful. | Source

Are Boils Contagious?

They sure are. Boils are very contagious when the pus within the boil begins to leak. If it leaks onto the skin, another boil could easily form wherever the pus lands. If it touches someone else's skin, a boil could form there.

The best thing to do is to keep your hands clean, and your boil clean. Change bandages whenever leakage from the pus is apparent. Discard all bandages properly and immediately after changing your dressings.

Regarding boils, did you home treat or see a doctor?

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Warning; Not suitable for weak stomachs

How do You Treat a Boil?

Treatment can and should begin as soon as you realize that it's a boil. The key is early treatment, the faster you can take care of it, the better off you'll be.

The best thing you can do is apply heat. Whether it's submerging your elbow into a hot pot, hot packs, or getting into the tub, heat is the best thing you can do to fight against the infection. I would use a small washcloth and use the sink faucet if it gets hot enough, squeeze the excess water out, and place it directly over the boil. The heat increases blood circulation which means that more white blood cells and anti-bodies come rushing in to fight the infection.

If the boil is still hard, you really don't have anything that you can do. Do not squeeze the area if the boil still feels firm and there is no head. Keep on applying hot compresses (this will actually ease some of the pain from the boil) and keep the area clean. Sometimes, the hot applications helps boils in the early stages drain on their own - especially if the boil has formed around a hair follicle.

Once the area softens, the head of the boil will appear. You'll be able to spot a small area where pus has gathered - that's the head. Resist the temptation to pop it with a needle, or to try to squeeze at this time. You usually don't have to break the skin at this point, after keeping up with hot compresses, the boil will begin to drain out on it's own. If you intend to do any squeezing, now is the time to do it.

Because the pus is very contagious, you have to be very careful on how you handle anything that touches it. Disinfect areas and things that you are using to help care for your boil. Picking up a good supply of gauze and anti-bacterial ointments are a good idea when you have to cover up the boil to go to work, run errands, etc.

Use an anti-bacterial soap in this area until the pus is completely gone. Continue to cover up your boil with gauze and ointment until it has healed.


Operating room
Operating room | Source

You Should See a Doctor...

If your boil is large, or you've been putting it up with it for several days, it's best that you see your doctor to have it drained. When boils are large, complications can occur that could be harmful to your health. There are also certain boils that have to be treated by a doctor to properly treat and heal them.

If your boil gives you severe pain, or if your boil is accompanied by a fever. If your boils turns red, or if there are red streaks that appear around the area - this means that poison may be getting into the bloodstream and you need to get immediate medical attention.

If after several days of compresses the boil doesn't drain, or if a second boil pops up. If you have home-treated your boil, and after several days, it appears that the infection is back, see your doctor.

If you have an infection that is deep, your doctor will have to treat it usually with an incision. Lumps that form on your body but have no pustule head or any pain should be treated by your doctor. Skin abscesses or cysts need to surgically drained or removed.

If you have a boil on your face, it's best to let your doctor handle it to keep scarring to a minimum. I had one on my face years ago that I handled on my own - I was lucky, the scar created a dimple in my smile making me all the more irresistible. But, I wouldn't risk it again.


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    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Yes, it's a tough situation to be in - doesn't matter which end of the boil you're at - it sucks either way. Just remember to always keep the area clean. The secretions of the boil - although it may be clear - could spread. A festival of boils are a common occurrence because children tend to scratch it and not wash their hands. Good luck on this. Kawi.

    • profile image

      Aditya Bhatnagar 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for the extremely informative post. People share innumerable needless things, however few take out time to help someone. Can't tell you how badly I needed this post, just that I really appreciate your time and concern for sharing this.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Oh yeah, never a subject that people like to talk about, but it happens more times than people like to think. It's always a good idea to have a doctor take care of it - general practitioners that I remember my brother's kids going to would simply grab a scalpel and lance it off. It's like a pimple - you simply can't help yourself but to pop it! Once you get to squeezing it, you can't stop it! Lol. Thanks for your comment HealthCard, and thanks for stopping by. Peace. Kawi.

    • Health Card profile image

      Evie Dawson 

      6 years ago

      MY friend treated this skin condition with the help of medical expert.. It was horrible.. Thanks for sharing :)

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      6 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Hey Jodah, yes, sounds like more of a cyst - had one of those too... on my shoulder, simple surgery, cut and snip - please tell the doctor that she wants it with as small a scar as possible. My cyst was a little less than golfball, but it was quite impressive none-the-less. Good luck, and thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Not a pleasant subject Kawi, but an important one if you are a bol sufferer. I have never had one, touch wood, but my wife has and at the moment she has either an infected cyst or a boil that is hard and about the size of a golf ball, but has no head. It is on the back of her neck. She went to the GP last week to have it removed but he said it was too big, she would need to see a surgeon unless it went down of it's own accord. It's a worry. Peace to you. Voted up useful.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      7 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Thanks Alison - not the best topic to discuss over dinner, but, a much needed article when it comes to being in this sort of pickle. Thanks for stopping by. Peace. Kawi.

    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks for a really informative and helpful article, voted up and pinned to my health tips board. In UK, I have used melolin dressings which have a non-stick surface to cover problem spots, fixed in place with micropore tape as I am allergic to sticking plasters!

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      7 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      lol... agreed. Thanks for your comment Carly. Peace. Kawi.

    • CarlySullens profile image

      Carly Sullens 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Gross! But very informative information. If I ever need it I know where to look.

    • KawikaChann profile imageAUTHOR

      Kawika Chann 

      7 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Lol, yeah, few of the low points in my life, but having the experience will enable me to act on an infection before it gets too large and infected. Peace. Kawi.

    • las81071 profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the info although hope I don't need it sounds painful


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