Updated 21 September 2015

The doctor's way of treating a boil yourself

Boils. We've all had them. And they usually make their unsightly or uneasy appearance right before a big event like a dance or an exam.


Boils are the result of an infected hair follicle and are most commonly found on the face, neck, armpit, thighs or buttocks, but can occur in any hairy area pf the body.

Usually they are small, come and go suddenly and require no treatment.

Occasionally we do get the bigger ones that can be painful as well as unsightly.

Steps to treat a boil at home:

1. Don't press or squeeze them! Pressing a boil to become "ripe" will make matters worse as you may damage the skin and/or introduce more bacteria to the skin around the boil.

2. Placing a warm compress on the boil will not only relieve the pain, but may help them drain faster on their own.

3. Do not use a needle to pierce the boil when it is red. If it makes a yellow tip, using a sterilised needle might help drain the pus, but my general advice is not to puncture it because you want it to go away quicker and fiddling with it only make matters worse.

When to see a doctor:

1. When the boil becomes unusually big

2. When you develop a fever

3. When you notice any swollen lymphnodes in an area close to the boil

4. If you suffer from diabetes or have HIV

5. When the boil starts to  really hurt 

6. When it's getting bigger and not draining on its own

Read more:

How the doctor would pop a pimple

How a doctor would remove your earwax

The doctor's way to treat a minor burn

Image: Shutterstock

Dr. Owen J. Wiese is Health24's resident doctor. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with additional qualifications in biochemistry and physiology he developed a keen interest in providing medical information through the media.


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