A trip to the doctor isn’t usually necessary when you’ve got a boil - most heal on their own.
However, you’ll need to avoid squeezing or picking at the boil if you want it to resolve quickly.
If you’re losing patience with a boil, there are some things you can do to help speed up the healing process. Try the tips below.
How to heal a boil at home
1. Apply a warm compress
Place a warm (not hot), moist face cloth on the affected area 3 to 4 times a day. The heat will help to widen the surrounding blood vessels, improve circulation and bring more white blood cells to the site of the infection to fight it.
Heat can also soothe inflamed or irritated skin, and relieve any pain or swelling caused by the boil.
For best results, hold the compress against your skin for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and repeat this every day until the boil is gone.
2. Keep the surrounding skin clean
Most boils are caused by a bacterium called staphylococcus. You can prevent the infection from spreading and forming new boils by washing the skin around your boil using a mild antiseptic or antibacterial soap to make sure the area is clean.
You should also wash your hands with soap and hot water to prevent germs from spreading to the surrounding skin.
3. Take painkillers to manage any pain
If the boil is causing you pain or discomfort, it may help to take a painkiller every 6 to 8 hours if required.
However, you should speak to a pharmacist or doctor for further guidance on whether to use painkillers, and how to get and use them.
4. Wear loose or baggy clothing if possible
Friction from clothing can irritate or even burst a boil, so avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes until the boil is healed. Instead, wear lightweight, breathable garments made from natural materials like cotton or linen.
Change and clean your clothes every day, and use fresh towels and bedding (where possible).
Are boils treated with antibiotics?
Boils can be treated with antibiotics, but a doctor is unlikely to prescribe an antibiotic unless you:
- have a boil on your face, which can cause complications
- develop a secondary infection like cellulitis
- have a high temperature
- are in a lot of pain and discomfort
- have a group of boils next to each other (a carbuncle)
Do boils need to be drained?
Large or persistent boils may need to be drained by a medical professional, but you should never try to squeeze or drain a boil yourself.
Popping a boil at home may spread the infection or drive it deeper into your skin, which can lead to more serious medical conditions like cellulitis or sepsis.
If you think a boil needs to be popped, see a doctor or visit a pharmacist.
And if you’re not sure whether to see a doctor, find out when to worry about a boil.
Boils and carbuncles [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.
Home Remedies for Boils: How to Treat a Boil or Abscess from Home [Internet]. Healthline. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.
Boils, carbuncles, and staphylococcal carriage - NICE CKS [Internet]. Cks.nice.org.uk. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.
Preventing boils and carbuncles - HSE.ie [Internet]. HSE.ie. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.
How to treat boils and styes [Internet]. Aad.org. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.
[Internet]. Bad.org.uk. 2020 [cited 23 January 2020]. Available here.