Boils: who gets them and how to treat them

By November 8, 2017infections
animated image of internal boil formation

What’s over a half inch in size, really painful, and bursts into a gross mess? Did you guess that it’s a boil? If you did, you’d be right! The good news is, they aren’t serious (with a few rare exceptions), and typically resolve themselves on their own.

What is a boil?

Boils are hair follicles or oil glands that have become infected, in a similar fashion to acne, but on a larger scale. They start out as painful, hard lumps, usually a half inch in size. Over the course of several days they get larger, more painful, and soften. Then a pus pocket forms on top. It will then burst and drain on its own.

Who Typically Gets Boils?

Anyone can develop a furuncle (technical term for a boil), but there are some factors that put you at a greater risk of getting one of these painful visitors:

  • Proximity to someone already infected with a furuncle
  • Diabetes
  • Acne, eczema, or any other skin infection that might damage the skin’s protective barrier
  • Struggling immunity

What areas of the body are most susceptible to developing a boil?

  • nose
  • mouth
  • groin
  • thighs
  • armpits

How do I treat a boil?

The number one thing you should not do with a boil is poke it with a needle! The boil will come to a head and burst on its own within 10 days. Using a needle will only introduce additional bacteria (either from the needle itself, your hands, or from the surface of the surrounding skin) and make the infection worse. All you have to do is apply warm compresses and soak it in warm water. Doing so will ease the pain, and help it to soften and come to a head much faster. Once it has come to a head, you can repeatedly soak it to encourage it to burst.

When it bursts, use a clean cloth soaked in warm water and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. Then wash the affected area with antibacterial soap, and treat the boil with rubbing alcohol. Slap on a band-aid with some antibiotic ointment and you’re good to go! Just wash it a few times a day to keep it clean and make sure it doesn’t get infected again. You can continue to use warm compresses to relieve any discomfort.

More Serious Situations

Sometimes, you might need to visit your doctor to receive proper treatment, especially if the normal home treatment proves ineffective OR you are developing furuncles chronically. Your doctor will most likely be able to diagnose the issue site on scene.

If your furuncles are chronic, they might suggest sending a sample to the lab to figure out which antibiotic would be most effective in fighting the bacteria.

Even if medical treatment is unnecessary, it might put your mind at ease to visit your local urgent care to get a second opinion. Come in today to see what we can do for you!