How do I Treat Boils and Carbuncles?

Harriette Halepis

Both boils and carbuncles can be treated at home, though very large lesions should be treated by a medical doctor. The main goal when treating an infection of this type is to drain puss from the infected area. Thus, most remedies include some type of topical cleanser or other ingredient that will cause a boil or carbuncle to drain quickly.

Tea tree oil may be used to treat boils and carbuncles.
Tea tree oil may be used to treat boils and carbuncles.

Boils and carbuncles are caused by bacterial infections. When an oil gland becomes blocked, the bacteria inside of that gland causes the skin to form a reddish bump. After a couple of days, a small bump may turn into a large bump topped by a hard exterior. Once a tip forms on the top of an infection, the infection usually erupts. The best way to treat this type of infection is to apply a strong astringent or salve in order to prevent the infected area from becoming enlarged.

Antibiotics may be required to treat boils and carbuncles.
Antibiotics may be required to treat boils and carbuncles.

Applying tea tree oil is a popular way to treat boils or carbuncles. Tea tree oil is a type of natural astringent that is particularly strong. To use tea tree oil to clear up these lesions, apply this oil to the infected area with a cotton swab. Another popular home treatment is hydrotherapy.

A washcloth, dipped in warm water and salt, is a helpful boil treatment.
A washcloth, dipped in warm water and salt, is a helpful boil treatment.

When a clean washcloth has been dipped in a solution of warm water and salt, this cloth can then be applied to the infected area. For best results, hold the washcloth on the infected area for up to fifteen minutes. This type of hydrotherapy should be conducted at least twice per day. If a home remedy proves insufficient, it is a wise idea to seek medical attention.

Some boils and carbuncles are too large to treat at home. When these large infections occur, the only way to treat them is to visit with your doctor. By draining the infected area with a needle, a medical doctor will be able to get rid of an infection right away. If an infection is buried well beneath the skin, a small incision may have to be made in order to drain pus from the area. Following this type of medical procedure, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics in order to prevent further infections from occurring.

Generally, these lesions are not extremely painful, although they can cause a slight amount of pain. If a small red bump appears on any part of your body, it is best to seek medical attention. Left unattended, the lesions can become the size of golf balls, and the infections are often difficult to contain.

Some creams that help treat boils contain tea tree oil or other natural ingredients.
Some creams that help treat boils contain tea tree oil or other natural ingredients.

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Discussion Comments


Yes, tea tree oil! Yes!

I have an acute chalazion. Nasty. Three days now and it has grown to the size of a pea and is very angry and red, but buried deep beneath my lower left eyelid, having erupted the interior Meibomian Gland. Find the reddest image of acute chalazion and mine is redder and meaner, except maybe that guy who was oozing pus through his eroded epidermis. Ow. But this sucker is extremely tender. A lance would have been a godsend an hour ago, but this latest salve is doing the trick!

My doctor only recommended hot wet compresses and ibuprofen, but I mixed a little castor oil with a few drops of tea tree oil ( I would use more away from the eye due to strength), and some turmeric. Ahh. (Thank you, thank you, thank you). Garlic and cinnamon oils are my next additions.

I have been applying a hot compress: a hand towel soaked in Epsom salt solution, then folded to a third and tightly rolled and microwaved. Don't burn yourself. Use tongs! After absorbing the exterior heat from the roll, slowly open the mouth of the roll over the boil, turning and opening the roll as the heat gets absorbed and dissipates. You should get a good 5-7 minutes out of your roll.

Wet heat is key. Lots of it. Often. Good luck. I hope you find relief. I did.


Have to disagree. Boils are *always* painful! That's why people do stupid stuff like trying to drain them at home. If they didn't hurt, people wouldn't do this.

And don't fool around with them. I have a friend who had a boil in the middle of his back. He let it go and let it go. Finally, he got his mom to look at it and she told him he needed to go to the ER. He did and the doctor came in, expecting to drain a small boil, slap on some neosporin and all would be well. Didn't exactly work out that way.

My friend said the doc took one look at the boil and said, "I can't drain this. You need surgery." They admitted him that night and surgery was the following morning. The surgeon said if he had gotten sepsis from the boil, there weren't enough antibiotics in a bottle to have helped him. The surgery took over an hour and my friend still has a crater in his back from where the infection was.

Moral of the story: Don't mess around with these things. Go to the doctor if they persist for more than two or three days.

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