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Boils are skin abscesses that can develop for a number of reasons but common culprits are an ingrown hair and plugged sweat glands (armpits and groin area especially). They start out somewhat sore when touched but if allowed to flourish, they will continue to swell in size and become extremely painful…some can grow to the size of an egg!
At first glance you might mistake it for a pimple but until it comes to a head, you’ll find it very, very painful to touch and no matter how much you squeeze it (if you can tolerate the pain), very little (if any) pus will expel.
The best way to get rid of one is to start treatment as soon as you notice it forming (can feel like a tender, sore lump when first developing). If they become extremely large, soft and ready to expel, they’re better tackled by a doctor who will lance it, drain it, pack it and send you on your way with a prescription for penicillin or antibacterial cream.
Side Note: You might recall scenes in historical based movies of nuns heating small glass globes or jars then applying them to a poor soul’s body. This actually was something done for boils, the heat inside the glass would create a vacuum when openings were stuck on the skin which would then draw out the infection. Imagine how painful that was! The good news is, it’s pretty easy to take care of things yourself with a lot less fuss.
Help fight the infection by soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salts (keeping the afflicted part under water). You can also apply warm packs or cloths. The heat increases circulation and encourages your body to focus on that spot and attack the infection. Do this a couple times a day and you should see results quickly. Keep it up until the boil has completely gone. If handled promptly, there will be no pus to drain since your body will take care of it.
If things are too far gone and you want to bring it to a head (ripen it) so it will soften and erupt, here’s what you can do (continue heat treatments as directed above):
- Saturate a bandaid pad with a few drops of tea tree oil then cover abscess.
- Regularly soak in lavender water (scroll down page for recipes). Can also use as a compress.
- Slather honey over the spot.
- Apply a fresh sliced tomato or tomato paste on top of it. The acid from the fruit will help soothe and ripen quicker.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, drizzle over top or soak a cotton ball with it and bandage in place. Same idea as above.
- Poultice: 1 TBS alum + 2 oz fresh tomato juice. Mix together then apply, covering completely. Wrap with cheesecloth, remove after 15 minutes and wash off.
- Regularly slather on garlic oil (instructions found on bottom of page) to hasten things along.
Old Wives Remedies:
- Completely cover it with a piece of fatty bacon (raw), bandage in place and leave on overnight.
- The crusty heel from a stale loaf of bread is soaked in hot milk then placed on the abscess and bandaged in place. Do several times a day until ripened.
It will be ready to open up with little pressure when the top softens and you see a yellow pus dot in the center (just like with a pimple). Once it opens up to drain, the relief will be instant and almost overwhelming. There will be a lot of fluid draining…you’ll be surprised at the amount! Keep the surrounding skin as clean as possible and disinfect regularly. Cover wound with a sterilized bandage.
- If you notice reddening or red streaking around the boil or patient is feverish or experiences chills (before or after eruption), seek professional medical care.
- People with diabetes and weakened immune systems should have a doctor handle this.
- Remember that you’re dealing with a bacterial infection (staph), wash hands well before and after treatment. Once draining starts, wearing latex gloves while cleaning it up is a good idea.
- If you have a cluster of them, these are called carbuncles and should be looked at by a doctor.
Please Note: These are simply notes I have collected, they are not professional medical advice.
When to see the doctor
If your home remedies don’t work, you may need to visit your doctor. Don’t wait any longer if you have any of these symptoms:
- Red streaks around the skin of the boil
- The pain gets worse
- The boil does not drain
- Swollen lymph nodes
If in doubt, chat to one of our doctors on the Hello Doctor App, so we can help you get back your beautiful skin!
Following are the symptoms and signs of boils in pregnancy:
• A skin lump may become larger, painful and softer over the time.• A skin lump that is red, swollen and tender to touch.• A pus pocket on top of the boil
When To Consult A Doctor?
You should seek medical help if:
• If the boil is becoming bigger• Intense pain• You have heat boils during pregnancy• You have fever• Lumps near the boil• Boil does not dry up• You have a boil for a couple of months• You have pregnancy boils in pubic area
• You have boils on face in pregnancy
Boils do not cause any major complications in pregnancy; however, it is recommended that you get medical help at the earliest in case you spot a boil.
Also read: Waxing During Pregnancy: When Should You Avoid & Precautions To Take
Best Treatments For Boils
Use moisture and heat to get rid of boils. Soaking the boil, if it’s in a soakable place on your body, in warm water will help to relieve pain and draw the boil out. Also, a warm, damp compact applied to the skin for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a day can also draw the boil out. Once the boil drains, either wash it with antibacterial soap, or apply idiodine to ensure that no bacteria can enter the fresh wound and cause further infection of the boil. You could also give Simply Saline Plus Wound Wash (sold at Amazon) a go for making sure the area is clean.
Your doctor may need to use surgery to get rid of a boil. Don’t worry, this isn’t a big deal. If the boil is large enough or is starting to form into an abscess, your doctor will want to get in there with a local anesthetic and a small needle or scalpel. He or she will first numb the boil and the surrounding area and then make a small incision to allow the pus to drain. The incision is then usually packed with gauze and an antiseptic to allow further drainage, and to keep bacteria away.
If you have recurrent problems with boils after treatment, it’s time to get a bacterial culture done. A bacterial culture, usually taken from the nose with a cotton swab, will help the doctor identify whether or not your boils are caused by staphylococcus aureus and allow them to plan a way to get rid of your boils. If it turns out that it is staph, then they will find an appropriate antibiotic to help you get rid of staph infections.
Keeping your wounds clean is the key to getting rid of boils. Because most boils are caused by that skin dwelling bacteria called staph for short, it’s best to keep open boils and other skin wounds as clean as possible. Wash all wounds with antibacterial soap on a daily basis and make sure to change any bandages or dressings when they start to look nasty.
One or more of your family members may need to be treated to really get rid of boils. If your boils are indeed caused by the staph bacteria, one or more of your family members may be carrying the bacteria and passing it on to you without knowing it because the staph carrier often doesn’t show symptoms. It is recommended that each family member you’ve had recent contact with get a bacterial culture done so that you can get rid of boils for good.
Best Natural Remedies for Boils
Vitamins A and E are good supplements for preventing boils and other skin problems. Both vitamins are essential for replenishing your epidermus, and are therefore naturally beneficial when fighting things like boils and skin infections.
Magnesium sulfate is said to be a good natural cure for boils. Essentially a paste is created with water and is then applied to the boil as a natural antiseptic antimicrobial agent to kill surrounding bacteria and as a means of absorbing the moisture from the wound and drying the boil out to cure it. Some bath salts like Epsom’s contain Magnesium sulfate. You can find options like Kirkman’s Magnesium Sulfate Cream on Aamazon.