What are Boils?

Boils are skin abscesses that are a collection of pus on the skin. It starts in the hair follicles or oil glands. The skin will turn red, and a lump that is tender will develop.  It will turn white in 4 to 7 days, as pus begins to form.  They will become more painful until they rupture and drain.   The most common places for boils to form are the face, armpits, shoulders, neck, and buttocks.  They usually form where  sweat is likely to form or there is friction.   If a boil forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty.  Boils are not contagious, however the bacteria that forms the boil is.

What Causes Boils?

There are many causes of boils.  Poor hygiene can cause a boil, as can diabetes.  Those with problems with the immune system are more susceptible to boils. Poor nutrition could also lead to boils.  Exposure to harsh chemicals can also make a boil form.

Boils usually start out about half an inch in size as a lump on the skin.  Within 48 hours or so, the lump becomes larger, softer and much more painful.  A pocket of pus will form. If a severe infection takes place one will notice that the skin around the boil has become infected. It will be painful to the touch, warm, red and swollen.  More boils may appear around the original boil.  The lymph nodes may become swollen and a fever could be present.  You will need to seek medical assistance if you start running a fever, have the swollen lymph nodes, the pain becomes very severe, the boil will not drain, another boil or boils appear, or if you have  a heart murmur, diabetes, have immune system troubles, or are using immune suppressing drugs. Also seek medical attention for a boil if you are in poor health or have chills with a fever.

Boils Treatment

Home treatment for a boil includes applying a warm compress or soaking the boil in warm water. This will draw the pus to the surface of the boil and also bring relief to it.  When the boil has come to a head, it will burst. When it does burst, it will have repeated drainings.  Once it has drained, wash well with an antibacterial soap, and then clean with rubbing alcohol. Then apply a topical ointment and bandage. One can also continue on with the warm compresses a few times daily. The area should be washed two to three times a day.  Never pop a boil yourself.  This could make the boil worse and lead to an infection.  If a boil does need to be popped, have a doctor lance it. The doctor will make a small incision at the tip of the boil.  If an infection can not be completely be drained, it may be packed with sterile gauze to help soak up the pus.

Tea tree oil can be applied to a boil.  Tea tree oil is an antiseptic that can heal boils.  Do note that tea tree oil can cause an allergic reaction to some, so take caution using it.

If a boil is severe, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.  A culture may be done to see what type of bacteria caused the infection .

After treating a boil, make sure to wash hands well with soap and water. Make sure to wash all bedding and towels that have touched the boils.

It is not always possible to prevent a boil from happening, but there are a few things that you can do to try and prevent them.  Avoid  sharing  personal items, such as towels, and  razors.  Wash hands frequently, and keep all wounds covered  until they have healed.

9 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    I am a huge advocate for tea tree oil. I use it all the time when I need to apply something antiseptic. I am not allergic to it, but my friend can not use it either, so do take caution when you apply it. I would suggest you only apply a small bit at a time at first to see if that helps.

  2. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I have had a boil before and had to have the doctor lance it. It was not painful to me to have it lanced. Having the boil was way more painful. Once it was lanced, it healed nicely. I made sure that I washed it well with an antibacterial soap. Warm compresses did help to soothe the pain until I could get into my doctor. The boil got painful over a weekend, and I did not want to have to go to the ER, so I waited until the following Monday morning to call. The warm compresses really did help me out. That all happened well over a year now.. I still do this date do not know what causes boils but I am sure trying my best not to get another one.. ever again…

  3. Eucalyptus
    Eucalyptus says:

    I don’t have tea tree oil. Can I use Oil of Eucalyptus instead? I feel that this does have some healing properties to it, but yet do not want to use it if it will harm me any further.

  4. lilly
    lilly says:

    Never, ever drain your own boil. My uncle had one. He decided that he would drain it himself. Worst thing that he could have ever done. It got so infected that he had to actually have surgery to repair the damage that was done on his skin. If only he would have paid the copay he could have saved himself time and money from being laid up from surgery. It might not seem like that big of a deal popping your own, but if you don’t know what you are doing, you could really harm yourself!

  5. Medication
    Medication says:

    Did you know that certain medications can make one more likely to get a boil? Those who take prednisone, prednisolone and medications used for chemotherapy are more susceptible to boils. I know this because my mother in law was doing chemotherapy treatments and had three boils develop when she had never had any prior to the treatments. If one has a disease in which antibodies are not being produced like they should be, they should be cautious for boils. Take the prevention steps listed above so a boil does not form. My mother in law was also told to take vitamin C daily. She takes 500 mg a day to keep them at bay.

  6. Frenky
    Frenky says:

    I have my first boil right now. Painful as all get out. I have tea tree oil in the cabinet. Do I just rub it on with a cotton pad? Do I then bandage it up or is that not a good idea to do?

  7. Tea oil
    Tea oil says:

    I have a question about the tea tree oil. Does it burn or sting when you apply it? Just seems to me that it would sting. Do you apply it to a boil that has already drained?

  8. Bobby Babe
    Bobby Babe says:

    A warm soaking feels great when you have a boil. I have had a few boils on my body before and warm soaks are what soothed me the most. A warm compress does help for the few minutes that it actually stays warm. I however just prefer to have the area soothed for a longer time.

  9. Gluten effect
    Gluten effect says:

    Does anyone know if Gluten effects boils? I suffer from boils, and read online that someone had luck with not getting boils by changing their diet to gluten free. I see proper nutrition listed above. Would this be something for me to try? Has anyone had any experience with gluten foods giving them boils?


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