Boils are painful, pus-filled vesicles that, after a bacterial infection sets in in a follicle or sebaceous gland, form under the skin. This type of infection, very common, is most often caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. In home treatment of the disease, one should avoid bursting or squeezing the boil, as this creates the risk of the infection entering the bloodstream - especially in people with weak immune systems (children, diabetics, the elderly). In case home remedies prove ineffective, see a doctor to pierce the boil.
Part 1 of 2: Treating boils at home
Step 1. Wait and see what happens
Most people's immune systems are strong enough to deal with small infections like the one discussed in this article. In other words, boils usually go away within a few weeks, although they cause itchiness and pain in the early stages. There is a possibility that the boil will become more painful as the pus builds up inside it. After that, it will burst and dry in a short time.
- If you've been waiting for a spontaneous boil for a few weeks, leave bactericidal wipes and tissues in your car or purse.
- If the boil is located on the face, clean the wound constantly and avoid covering it with makeup. Facial boils are embarrassing, but it's best to leave them out in the air and wait for the body's defenses to fight them off naturally.
Step 2. Make a hot compress
Applying a washcloth or heated flannel to the boil helps provide natural drainage as the heat expands the blood vessels and intensifies the flow of lymph, as well as alleviating pain. However, heat can promote inflammation. Wet a clean washcloth in water and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. Compress several times a day (20 minutes at a time) until the wound begins to drain and shrink in size.
- As great as the bactericidal effect of the microwave, wash and rinse the towel after each use to prevent the infection from spreading.
- Do not leave the fabric at a temperature that burns the skin, as this would aggravate the problem.
Step 3. If possible, use tea tree oil
This substance, extracted from a plant native to Australia, has a natural antibiotic and antiseptic effect, and is widely used in the treatment of skin infections. The oil's bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties help eliminate boils, although science does not yet know if it can be absorbed through the skin. It also prevents the spread of infection once the boil has broken out. Soak a clean cotton ball in the oil and spread it into the gallbladder three to five times a day. Do not let the substance come into contact with your eyes, as the oil causes a sting.
- Some people are allergic to tea tree. This condition is very rare, but in any case, stop the oil treatment if the skin becomes swollen and irritated.
- Other natural antibiotics with a similar effect to tea tree oil are: olive leaf extract, oregano oil, lavender, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and iodized solution.
Step 4. Drain
When it bursts spontaneously, drain the contents of the boil by lightly pressing its edges with a high-absorbing tissue. Don't be surprised by the amount of pus and blood: the amount of fluid released by the boil is far greater than that of the common spine. Extract as much blood and pus as possible, discard the tissue, and clean the area with bactericidal wipes. Boils are not contagious, but the bacteria that colonize them are.
- Perhaps the boil will continue to drain fluid for hours to come. If possible, spread some antibiotic ointment on it and cover it with a bandage before bed.
- Exposing the pierced boil to air and sunlight speeds healing, but too much can cause sunburn and create a local discoloration that will last for months.
- Continue making hot compresses in the days following the boil to help it deflate. Remember to always use clean swabs.
Part 2 of 2: Seeing a Doctor
Step 1. Know when to call a doctor
Most boils arise from ingrown hairs, splinters, and foreign bodies lodged in the skin. In people with healthy immunity, these lesions disappear within a few weeks. If the boil persists longer (or if it has recurred several times) or if it is accompanied by pain, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or loss of appetite, you should see a doctor. Large boils (larger than 5 cm) also require medical attention.
- Such a lesion is not considered serious, but other diseases can be similar to it, for example: skin cancer, allergies, bee or wasp stings, abscesses caused by diabetes, herpes, chickenpox and ARMS.
- Antibiotic ointments (neomycin sulfate, bacitracin, etc.) are ineffective against boils because they do not reach the skin layers where the bacteria are lodged.
Step 2. Discuss with the doctor whether the boil should be pierced
After confirming that the lesion is indeed a boil, the doctor may propose that it be perforated, especially if it has persisted for several weeks or is large and painful. This procedure is very simple: the doctor applies local anesthesia and makes a small incision at the top of the gallbladder, releasing the accumulated pus. Afterwards, a bandage will be applied and the doctor will give some hygiene instructions. Making the incision in an office or hospital is much safer than at home.
- When the infection is too large and too deep for all of the pus to be cleared immediately, a doctor may place a small piece of gauze over the wound to facilitate drainage.
- If the incision is made on a very large boil, it can leave a permanent scar. Take this into account if the procedure is to be performed on areas such as the face and discuss other options with your doctor.
Step 3. Take antibiotics only if prescribed by your doctor
Such medications are rarely used to treat lesions such as boils, although they may be prescribed in severe or relapsed cases. Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics by mouth for 10 to 14 days for those who suffer from recurrent boils,. In more severe cases, two antibiotics are used, in addition to the antibiotic ointment to be applied directly to the boil during the day.
- The overuse of antibiotics in recent decades has created resistant bacteria, which, when contracted, are life-threatening. If the boil develops while you are hospitalized to deal with a different illness, let the doctors or nurses know right away.
- One of the side effects of using antibiotics is the partial destruction of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal flora, which can lead to digestion problems, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and nausea. Allergies, rashes, and difficulty breathing are other possible adverse reactions to antibiotics.
- Wash your hands before and after dealing with a boil at home. This reduces the risk that the infection will spread.
- Poor nutrition, poor hygiene habits, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and weakened immunity increase susceptibility to boils.
- If you have a boil or other skin infection, do not share objects such as bath towels, razor blades, and clothing.
- If you have immune disorders, heart murmur, diabetes, or use immunosuppressive drugs (such as corticosteroids), see a doctor as soon as you notice a boil.
- See your dermatologist or your trusted doctor if the boil is very painful, lasts for several weeks, or comes with a fever.
- Do not squish or pop the boil on your own (especially if you have no healthcare experience). This could irritate the lesion and spread the infection.