Why Do People Get Boils?

Reviewed on 9/29/2020

Boils are common skin conditions.
Boils are common skin conditions.

Boils may affect anyone. Certain conditions, however, can make you more prone to get boils. These include:

Prolonged sitting, extreme sweating, and skin irritation may make you prone to boils on the buttocks. Boils are the most common on the face, neck, buttocks, thighs, and armpits. They may, however, occur in the hair follicles at any site on the body.

What are the symptoms of boils?

You may get single or multiple boils at a time. A boil usually starts as a painful, pinkish-red, and swollen bump on a firm area of the skin. The boil may progress to form a fluid-filled cyst.

The pain typically worsens when the boil gets filled with pus and dead tissue. A boil may empty its contents (drain) on its own. This may reduce pain. Usually, however, a large boil needs to be opened and drained by a healthcare provider.

The other symptoms of a boil include:

  • A bump about the size of a pea that may grow as large as a golf ball
  • Pustules (white or yellow center)
  • Spread to other skin areas or joining with other boils
  • Quick growth
  • Weeping, oozing, or crusting
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling unwell
  • Itching before the boil develops
  • The skin around the boil becomes red, painful, and warm

How to treat boils at home?

Boils may go away on their own. For home management of boils, you may:

  • Apply warm, moist compresses on the boil. Soak a flannel or any clean and soft cloth in warm water and place it over the boils for a few minutes, many times a day.
  • Clean the area around the boil with soap and water.
  • If the boil opens, continue applying warm and moist compresses to speed up healing.
  • Keep yourself clean by taking a bath every day and regularly washing your hands.
  • You may take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications to ease the pain.
  • Do not squeeze or pick a boil.
  • Do not try to cut open the boil at home.
  • Wash your hand before and after touching the boil.
  • You should not share or reuse your washcloths or towels. Clean your clothing, washcloths, towels, sheets, or other items that have touched infected areas by washing in hot water.
  • Dispose of the used dressings in a sealed bag carefully so that any discharge from the boil does not touch anything else.

When should I consult a doctor for my boil?

Boils usually get better with home management. You may consult your doctor if

  • The boil does not heal in two weeks.
  • You get a fever.
  • More boils appear.
  • The boil comes back.
  • The boil is on the spine or middle of your face (the dangerous area).
  • The boil causes significant pain or discomfort.
  • You have long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, or cancer.

Your doctor may drain the boil and prescribe antibiotics for faster healing. Never attempt to drain the boil yourself because it can spread infection.


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