What are Boils?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
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  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2018
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Boils, or skin abscesses, are large, sore, reddish bumps resulting from infections deep in the skin.

A boil usually starts as a tender area that becomes hardened and swells resembling a "blind pimple." It can develop slowly but eventually the center will soften and develop a "head." The head is filled with bacteria, proteins, and the accumulation of white blood cells sent to fight the infection, otherwise known as pus. When the boil reaches its final stage, it can be drained by lancing or it may spontaneously drain. Applied hot packs will help this process along, as the heat draws more blood to fight the infection.

There are several types of boils including furuncles or carbuncles, caused by a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus. This type of lesion, which may have multiple openings onto the skin, is sometimes accompanied by a fever or chills. Another common type is caused by cystic acne. These abscesses form due to clogged or infected oil ducts. Cystic acne affects deeper skin tissues than that of common acne and is often associated with teenage years.


Boils can also form as a result of an ingrown hair or at the site of any skin puncture such as a splinter or cut that may become infected. In most cases, applying moist heat packs will help draw the bump to a head, but lancing the lesion before a head forms will not alleviate the tenderness or aid healing. In fact, it can have the opposite effect and slow the healing process.

Some types of cortisone medications like prednisone can suppress the immune system increasing the chance for boils, and people with impaired immune systems might also have a greater tendency to develop them.

It may happen, especially with larger lesions, that several pockets of pus need to be lanced and drained. In this case seeing a health care practitioner might be best. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, however medication is not always needed.

A less common but well known type of boil that is likely to require a physician's care is hidradenitis suppurativa, characterized by multiple abscesses in the arm pits or groin area as a result of inflammation of the sweat glands. These lesions may be difficult to treat and could require a surgical procedure wherein the affected sweat glands would be removed.

Although most boils can be treated at home, it is recommended that persons with compromised immune systems or those experiencing fever along with the lesion contact a doctor as a precaution. Allergic reactions to medications or to bee stings can also result in red welts that may resemble boils. The spontaneous appearance of a rash of welts should be checked by a physician. Hives distinguish themselves by the itching that accompanies the weals.


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Post 11

I have boils on my head and I am really fed up. Please help me out.

Post 10

heat boils appear due to faulty diets so you need to eat good foods, drink a lot of water and be a vegetarian for couple of days. Especially don't eat pork. It adds toxins to the bloodstream. For that reason it may help bacteria to grow the boils in various places.

Paste cream on it, not the solution for that though it can get rid of them for a couple of days it will come again and again.

Actually it's important to reduce the body temperature and that's the major reason that happen by eating more fruits, vegetables (if you can eat uncooked vegetables it's really good).

There is another solution for recommend by Indian Ayurveda and that's to drink

glass of milk at night mixed with ghee. I suggest not mixing anything beyond sugar like coffee or tea, just plain milk.

Learn to shower every day, especially in the morning and always try to be healthy because when the body is run-down it not only produces boils but also various diseases may happen.

Post 9

@#3: Acupuncture has never been proven to help with anything beyond the placebo effect in scientific studies (In fact, there was a huge government funded study a few years ago into alternative therapies and almost all of them failed). You'd be much better off getting advice from a real doctor. Sushi and ice cream have nothing to do with boils around your mouth.

As for everyone with recurring boils, you should see your doctor. Online treatment is a risky business and often there is a deeper cause to them.

Post 8

Boils on genitalia? Sounds like herpes or warts. Boils on head, get checked for ringworm. Any 'boils' in genital area or on thighs should be checked out by a doctor. Everyone has their own definition of what a boil is, and it could be hpv or hsv.

Post 7

I keep getting boils on my inner thighs and other personal places, what should i do?

Post 6

I have boils on my head. I have tried many medicines but the healing is temporary. I mean it heals completely but again reappears after few days. The boils are painful. Pls suggest a permanent solution to this.

Post 5

I've a boil on my leg, which I assume has probably developed from an ingrowing hair. I have treated it so far by applying a large blob of Savlon cream on it with a plaster then placed over the top, and repeat this everyday rinsing the wound. Seems to be working so far.

Post 4

i have boils on my head. i have tried many medicines but the healing is temporary. i mean it heals completely but again reappears after few days. the boils are painful. pls suggest a permanent solution to this

Post 3

Sounds like good old fashioned acne. What differentiates acne from boils?

Anyway, I once had an acupuncturist tell me that there are specific foods that can cause acne breakouts around your mouth. Sadly, sushi and ice cream were two of those foods. I don't remember what else she said, but maybe that will give you more direction for your research.

Good luck!

Post 2

I keep getting clusters of boils at each side of my mouth, (just at the side of where a moustache would sit, if you follow), they appear approx every 2 month, and I don't know if it's the result of shaving?

They start off red & itchy, then fill up with pus after about a week, there can be as many as 6 boils on each side of my mouth, I try to cover them up with all sorts of creams etc, but I think this just makes matters worse?

They don't look very nice either!

I wash my face regularly with Tea-Tree oil, and have to shave everyday.

I'm a male, and I am 48 years old.

Can you recommend a cure or a prevention?

Post 1

I was wondering if a man is able to get boils on his genitals?

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