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Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Boils
A boil is a red, swollen, painful bump under the skin. It often looks like an overgrown pimple. Boils are often caused by infected hair follicles. Bacteria from the infection form an abscess, or pocket of pus. A boil can become large and cause severe pain.
Boils most often happen where there is hair and rubbing. The face, neck, armpits, breasts, groin, and buttocks are common sites.
You can sometimes care for a boil at home.
Your doctor may want to cut a small opening in the boil so that the pus can drain out. This is called lancing the boil. He or she will numb the area first. Sometimes gauze is placed in the cut so that it stays open and keeps draining.
Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to stop the infection. Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better or the boil looks better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
Call your doctor if:
If you often get boils in the same spot, gently wash the area well with soapy water every day. Always dry the area well. Do not wear tight clothing over the area.
If you have many boils, your doctor may prescribe a cream or ointment that you put inside your nose. This is because the bacteria that usually cause boils sometimes live inside the nose and then spread to other areas, including your skin. Your doctor may also advise you to take antibiotics for a longer time than normal. These medicines may help keep boils from coming back.
Other Works Consulted
Craft N (2012). Superficial cutaneous infections and pyodermas. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2128–2147. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Morelli JG (2007). Cutaneous bacterial infections. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed., pp. 2741–2745. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Pasternack MS, Morton NS (2015). Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In JE Bennett et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1194–1214. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Current as of: October 31, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineH. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
Current as of: October 31, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
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