Boils - NHS

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Boils

A boil is a hard and painful lump that fills with pus. Most boils go away on their own. See a GP if you keep getting them.

Check if you have a boil

A photo of a boil
A boil often starts as an itchy or tender spot.
Credit:

DR HAROUT TANIELIAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/82921/view

A photo of a boil
Boils can sometimes leak pus.
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/251716/view

A photo of a boil
Boils can appear anywhere on your body.
Credit:

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/251674/view

A photo of a carbuncle
When lots of boils form together it's called a carbuncle.
Credit:

Mediscan / Alamy Stock Photo

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-a-photograph-of-a-male-with-an-abscess-in-the-neck-11763483.html?pv=1&stamp=2&imageid=508EEC20-D4AC-45FD-858D-4AEDFE40568A&p=17774&n=0&orientation=0&pn=1&searchtype=0&IsFromSearch=1&srch=foo%3dbar%26st%3d0%26pn%3d1%26ps%3d100%26sortby%3d2%26resultview%3dsortbyPopular%26npgs%3d0%26qt%3dA7911G%26qt_raw%3dA7911G%26lic%3d3%26mr%3d0%26pr%3d0%26ot%3d0%26creative%3d%26ag%3d0%26hc%3d0%26pc%3d%26blackwhite%3d%26cutout%3d%26tbar%3d1%26et%3d0x000000000000000000000%26vp%3d0%26loc%3d0%26imgt%3d0%26dtfr%3d%26dtto%3d%26size%3d0xFF%26archive%3d1%26groupid%3d%26pseudoid%3d788068%26a%3d%26cdid%3d%26cdsrt%3d%26name%3d%26qn%3d%26apalib%3d%26apalic%3d%26lightbox%3d%26gname%3d%26gtype%3d%26xstx%3d0%26simid%3d%26saveQry%3d%26editorial%3d1%26nu%3d%26t%3d%26edoptin%3d%26customgeoip%3d%26cap%3d1%26cbstore%3d1%26vd%3d0%26lb%3d%26fi%3d2%26edrf%3d0%26ispremium%3d1%26flip%3d0%26pl%3d

Things you can do to help boils

There are things you can do to treat boils yourself and stop them coming back.

Do

  • soak a flannel in warm water and hold it against the boil for 10 minutes 4 times a day

  • clean the area around the boil with antibacterial soap if pus comes out

  • cover the area with a dressing or gauze until it heals

  • bathe or shower every day and wash your hands regularly

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain

  • wash your towels and bedding at least once a week at a high temperature

  • try to lose weight if you are very overweight and have boils between folds of your skin

Don’t

  • do not pick, squeeze or pierce a boil

  • do not share your towel with other people

  • do not go to a swimming pool or gym until the boil has gone –⁠ you could pass the infection on to others

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have a boil on your face
  • you have a boil and a long-term condition such as diabetes
  • the skin around your boil feels hot and painful
  • you've had a boil for 2 weeks and the things you've tried are not helping
  • you keep getting boils
  • you have a group of boils (carbuncle)
  • you have a boil and you feel hot and shivery

Information:

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

Treatment for boils

A GP can check if you need treatment.

You may need:

  • a small procedure to drain the boil to get rid of the pus
  • antibiotics

Causes of boils

You may be more likely to get boils if you have a long-term condition such as diabetes or HIV.

You may also be more likely to get boils if:

  • you have close contact with someone else who has boils
  • you cut your skin while shaving

Carbuncles are less common and mostly affect middle-aged men.

Page last reviewed: 9 September 2020
Next review due: 9 September 2023