How to treat boils? Symptoms, Causes & Antibiotics

Mar 31


Jane Scaplen

Jane Scaplen

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Linkedin

A boil, also known as a furuncle, is a common skin infection that occurs when a hair follicle or oil gland becomes infected with bacteria, primarily Staphylococcus aureus. Boils typically start as red, tender nodules under the skin and can gradually enlarge, forming swollen, painful lumps filled with pus. These pus-filled lesions are often accompanied by inflammation and may develop a visible white or yellowish head as the infection progresses.

Symptoms of Boils

Redness and Swelling: Boils often appear as red,How to treat boils? Symptoms, Causes & Antibiotics Articles inflamed areas on the skin. The affected area may become swollen as the infection progresses.

Tenderness and Pain: Boils are usually tender to the touch and can cause significant discomfort, especially as they enlarge.

Pus-filled Lesions: As the infection worsens, the center of the boil fills with pus, forming a visible white or yellowish head. This pus is a mixture of dead white blood cells, bacteria, and tissue debris.

Increased Sensitivity: The surrounding skin may feel warm or sensitive to touch due to inflammation caused by the infection.

Formation of a Core: In some cases, a firm core called a "core" may develop within the boil. This core is composed of dead tissue and pus and is often expelled during drainage.

Fever: Occasionally, especially with larger or more severe boils, individuals may experience fever or chills as the body responds to the infection.

Multiple Boils: Some individuals may develop clusters of boils, particularly in areas prone to friction or sweat buildup, such as the armpits, groin, buttocks, or inner thighs.

Characteristics of Boils

Location: Boils can occur anywhere on the body but are commonly found in areas with hair follicles, such as the face, neck, underarms, and buttocks.

Size: Boils vary in size, ranging from small, pea-sized nodules to larger, golf ball-sized lesions. The size often correlates with the severity of the infection.

Development: Boils typically begin as firm, tender lumps under the skin. Over time, they may enlarge, soften, and develop a visible pus-filled head.

Inflammation: Surrounding skin may appear red, swollen, and warm to the touch due to the body's inflammatory response to the infection.

Pain and Discomfort: Boils can cause significant pain and discomfort, especially when pressure is applied or during movement.

Drainage: In many cases, boils eventually rupture, releasing pus and relieving pressure. This drainage may continue for several days until the infection resolves.

Scarring: After healing, boils may leave behind scars or darkened skin in the affected area, particularly if they were large or deep..

Common Causes of Boils

The primary cause of boils is the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which commonly resides on the skin or in the nose of healthy individuals. However, when the bacterium enters the skin through cuts, breaks, or hair follicles, it can cause an infection, leading to the development of boils. Several factors can increase the risk of developing boils, including poor hygiene, compromised immune system, diabetes, friction or irritation to the skin, and close contact with individuals who have boils.

How do you get rid of a boil in one night?

Warm Compresses

Applying warm compresses to the affected area several times a day can help promote drainage and alleviate pain. The warmth helps to increase blood flow to the area, which aids in the healing process.

Good Hygiene Practices

Keeping the affected area clean and dry is essential to prevent the spread of infection. Gently washing the area with mild soap and water can help remove bacteria and prevent further irritation.

Avoid Squeezing

It is crucial to resist the urge to squeeze or puncture the boil, as this can lead to further infection or scarring. Instead, allow the boil to drain on its own or seek medical attention for drainage.

Incision and Drainage

For large or persistent boils, a healthcare professional may need to make an incision to drain the pus. This procedure is typically performed under local anaesthesia and helps to relieve pain and promote healing.

Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate discomfort associated with boils.

Antibiotics for boils

In cases where the infection is severe, recurrent, or if there is a risk of complications, antibiotics may be prescribed. Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria responsible for the infection and reducing inflammation. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for boils include:

  • Dicloxacillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

Where are boils most common?

The most common locations for boils include:

Face: Boils can develop on the face, including the cheeks, chin, and nose. Poor facial hygiene, friction from shaving, or blocked pores can contribute to their formation.

Neck: The neck is another common site for boils, particularly along the hairline, at the base of the neck, or in areas where skin rubs against clothing or jewelry.

Armpits: The warm, moist environment of the armpits makes them susceptible to boil formation. Friction from clothing and the presence of sweat glands can contribute to bacterial growth and infection.

Groin: Boils in the groin area, also known as groin abscesses or hidradenitis suppurativa, can be particularly painful and uncomfortable. Friction, moisture, and hair follicles in this area increase the risk of infection.

Buttocks: Boils on the buttocks, often referred to as pilonidal cysts, can be caused by friction, prolonged sitting, or ingrown hairs. These boils may occur singly or in clusters.

Inner Thighs: Like the groin area, the inner thighs are prone to boils due to friction and moisture. Tight clothing and skin-to-skin contact can exacerbate the problem.

Under Breasts: In women, the area under the breasts can be susceptible to boils due to friction, moisture, and lack of ventilation. Boils in this area may be exacerbated by wearing tight or ill-fitting bras.

Underarms: Similar to the groin and buttocks, the warm, moist environment of the underarms provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Shaving, deodorant use, and friction from clothing can contribute to boil formation.

Is it normal to get a boil in the same spot?

While it's unlikely to completely get rid of a boil overnight, there are steps you can take to help expedite the healing process and alleviate discomfort. Here are some strategies that may help:

Warm Compress: Apply a warm, moist compress to the boil for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. The heat helps increase blood flow to the area, promotes circulation, and encourages the boil to come to a head, facilitating drainage of pus. Do this consistently throughout the day and before bedtime.

Keep the Area Clean: Gently clean the affected area with mild soap and water to remove any dirt or bacteria. Avoid harsh scrubbing, as this can irritate the skin and exacerbate the boil. Keeping the area clean helps prevent further infection and promotes healing.

Use Antibacterial Ointment: Apply an over-the-counter antibacterial ointment or cream to the boil after cleansing. This can help prevent secondary infection and promote faster healing. Be sure to follow the product instructions carefully.

Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with the boil. Follow the dosage instructions on the packaging and avoid exceeding the recommended dose.

Do Not Squeeze or Pop: While it may be tempting to squeeze or pop the boil to expedite drainage, this can lead to further infection, scarring, and complications. Allow the boil to naturally come to a head and drain on its own.

Elevate the Area: If possible, elevate the affected area to reduce swelling and promote drainage. For example, if the boil is on your leg, prop your leg up with pillows while lying down.

Stay Hydrated and Rest: Drink plenty of fluids and get adequate rest to support your body's immune response and promote healing.

Consult a Healthcare Professional: If the boil is large, painful, or does not improve with home treatment, consider consulting a healthcare professional. They may recommend antibiotics or drainage procedures to accelerate healing and prevent complications.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While most boils can be treated at home, there are certain instances where medical attention is necessary. These include:

  • Boils accompanied by fever or other systemic symptoms.
  • Boils that do not improve with home treatment.
  • Recurrent boils.
  • Boils in sensitive areas such as the face, groin, or breast.
  • Boils in individuals with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or compromised immune systems.


Boils are common skin infections that can be both painful and inconvenient. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options available, individuals can effectively manage boils and prevent complications. While many boils can be treated at home with warm compresses and good hygiene practices, it is essential to seek medical attention if the infection is severe or if there is a risk of complications. With proper treatment and care, most boils can be resolved without causing long-term harm to the skin or overall health.