A furuncle is an isolated bacterial skin infection that begins around a single hair. Also called a boil, a furuncle usually resembles an overgrown pimple; it is typically red, round, swollen, and has a white or yellow pustule at the center. Even small boils can be itchy and painful, so careful furuncle treatment either at home or at a doctor's office is important to promote quick healing and prevent infection from spreading. A person can try applying a warm compress to the furuncle to soften it and promote draining, and then keep the area clean with antibiotic soaps and ointments. If a boil does not respond to home care or becomes very large, a doctor can drain it with a sterile needle.
Doctors strongly discourage people from trying to pop or drain boils at home. Doing so can leave a scar at the site of the furuncle and possibly spread bacteria to nearby skin. Drainage is generally the best furuncle treatment, but it can be accomplished without popping open a sore.
Applying a warm, moist washcloth to the furuncle or soaking it in warm water brings pus closer to the surface. With furuncle treatment several times a day, the boil usually begins to drain within one week. As a bonus, the warmth of the water or compress can also help to ease symptoms of pain, burning, and itching.
It is important to continue furuncle treatment after the boil drains. Some bacteria usually remains even after all of the pus is gone, so washing it carefully with antibiotic soap can help prevent the boil from coming back. Most doctors suggest washing a furuncle thoroughly at least two or three times a day. Between cleanings, an over-the-counter topical antibiotic cream can be applied to the area. A sterile bandage can help protect the furuncle while it heals. Most furuncles clear up completely in about two weeks.
A person should schedule an appointment with a dermatologist if home furuncle treatment does not seem to be working. The doctor can try to lance the boil with a sterile needle or scalpel and then carefully squeeze out pus and dead skin tissue. He or she usually applies a high-strength antibiotic with a bandage and provides instructions about home care. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed as well if an infection results in multiple boils or systemic symptoms such as fever and fatigue. A follow-up visit in about two weeks is important to confirm that the infection is gone.