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Boils (Skin Abscesses)

Boils facts

  • A boil, or skin abscess, is a collection of pus that forms in the skin.
  • Boils symptoms and signs include:
    • a firm reddened bump,
    • tender, swollen skin surrounding the bump,
    • the bump may increase in size,
    • pus-filled head on the bump, which may spontaneously drain, weep, or ooze.
  • Antibiotics alone can be inadequate in treating abscesses. The primary treatments for boils include hot packs and draining ("lancing") the abscess but only when it is soft and ready to drain. Most of these skin conditions resolve on their own or with home remedies.
  • If the individual has a fever or chronic disease, such as cancer or diabetes, or is taking medications that suppress the immune system, he or she should contact a health care professional if a boil (abscess) or other skin infection develops.
  • There are a number of ways to reduce the likelihood of developing some forms of boils, but boils are not completely preventable even with proper hygiene and skin care regimens.
  • The bacteria that cause boils are contagious, and skin infections can be spread from contact with the fluid from a boil.
Picture of a Boil (Skin Abscess)
Picture: What does a boil look like?
Reviewed on 5/12/2017
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