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Skin Boil Treatments

Skin Boil Treatments Skin Boil Treatments

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria cause skin boils, also called furuncles. Boils, which form in a hair follicle and the surrounding tissue, start as a red tender lump that enlarges and develops a white or yellow pus-filled center. Boils often form on the face, back, neck, armpits, buttocks and thighs. Multiple boils that connect under the skin, called carbuncles, grow deeper and more often results in scarring. Prompt treatment and meticulous care usually prevent complications such as permanent scarring or spread of the infection to other areas of the body.

Warm Compresses

A boil won't heal until the infected material inside drains. Squeezing the boil or lancing it at home should never be done, since the infection may be driven deeper by squeezing, and lancing can cause worse infection if scrupulous sterile technique and sterilized tools aren't used. Warm saltwater compresses applied for 10 minutes every few hours helps bring the boil to a head and hastens its rupture. One the boil breaks, a sterile dressing should be applied and changed frequently. Wash hands after every dressing change to prevent re-infection and wash all clothing, bedding, towels and washcloths used or worn near the boil with very hot or boiling water, MedlinePlus recommends.


Furuncles on the spine, nose and face can cause serious infection if not properly treated. Systemic antibiotics are often prescribed for boils in these areas or for large boils or carbuncles, for those with compromised immune systems and those at risk for developing endocarditis, the Merck Manual states. Antibiotics may also be prophylactally prescribed for one or two months for people with recurrent infections. Topical over-the-counter antibiotics can be applied after gently washing the boil several times a day.

Incisional Drainage

A boil that doesn't drain by itself after two weeks, or occurs in conjunction with fever, red streaks, or other signs of worsening infection may require incisional drainage by medical personnel. This involves lancing the top of the boil with a small needle so pus can drain out, which relieves pain, aids healing and reduces the chance of scarring, explains.

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