Boils – those painful, disgusting, itchy, eye sores that no one likes to see pop up on their skin. There is a reason you’ve never heard anyone say “check out my cool new skin boil.”
Fortunately there are ways to deal with boils – both in your home and through a doctor’s assistance. But first, let’s look at what a boil actually is. When it comes to medical treatments knowledge is always your best weapon.
Like their less nasty cousin the pimple, boils are a skin infection that start in your skin follicles and hair glands. It usually starts when germs and bacteria enter through cuts in your skin, even very tiny ones. Something as small as a splinter or some other foreign object could be enough to get a boil started. Or, the germs and bacteria could just enter through the natural imperfections in your skin. Another way germs and bacteria get under your skin – literally – to form a boil is through an ingrown hair. Boils can be worsened by poor hygiene and nutrition, diabetes, or immune disorders.
Usually a boil will appear on your arm pitts, buttox, face, neck or thigh, though they can really occur anywhere on your body.
It’s good to note how to not get boils in the first place. The best defense is a simple combination of a good diet, washing your clothes, showering regularly, and exercise to keep your immune system strong.
If you have a boil then the good news is that most boils don’t need medical attention. They will usually go away on their own with the only side effects being that they are uncomfortable and ugly. That doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. A common home remedy with favorable results is to apply heat to the boil.
Try soaking the boil in warm water. Sometimes boils are in places that you can’t soak quite as well, like next to your mouth or nose. You do have to breath, after all. In these cases try making a heat compress by soaking a clean towel in warm water and wringing out the excess water. Then apply the compress to the boil and gently wash it.
What’s happening here is not only does the heat alleviate the pain, but it’s also drawing the pus to the surface. After a few washings the boil should burst and the pain should drain out. If you washed the boil repeatedly and kept good hygiene practices up the boil should come to a head roughly ten days after first appearing.
There are several other home remedies you can find online – such as using garlic, milk, betel leaves, or any other number of items or ingredients that range from common to strange. But these aren’t necessarily approved by the medical community and should be looked at with skepticism. Using warm water and heat compressions paired with patience is the best way to treat a boil.
It’s important to note that you definitely should not puncture the boil with a needle or other foreign object. This could actually make the infection worse. Bringing a boil to a head with anything other than the above method or advice from your doctor is always a mistake. That’s pretty much it for your standard run-of-the-mill ugly ol’ boil. However, there are cases where you should seek medical attention for a boil or boils.
If you have diabetes or other medical conditions that could weaken your immune system you probably need to get any boil checked out. Remember that a boil, though a mild one, is still an infection and infections spread. Furthermore if you are taking any medication that could affect your immune system definitely consult your physician about treating your boil with any home remedies like the one described above.
If your boils persists after two weeks, or it appears to be unusually large or red, consult your doctor and get medical attention. When a group of boils appear together on your skin this is called a carbuncle and is more serious than your common boil. Once again, seek medical attention. Boils can lead to more serious medical conditions if they are allowed to spread. If your boils exhibits signs of being more serious your doctor can prescribe strong antibiotics to kill the infection.
After your boil has come to a head – either with a home remedy or through medical assistance – continue washing the area about three times a day and apply an antibiotic ointment to the area. If it comes back in the same place consult your physician.