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A boil is a red, swollen, painful
bump under the skin. It often looks like an overgrown pimple. Boils are often
caused by infected hair follicles. Bacteria from the infection form an
abscess, or pocket of pus. A boil can become large and
cause severe pain.
Boils most often happen where there is hair and
rubbing. The face, neck, armpits, breasts, groin, and buttocks are common
You can sometimes care
for a boil at home.
Your doctor may want to cut a small opening in the boil
so that the pus can drain out. This is called lancing the boil. He or she will
numb the area first. Sometimes gauze is placed in the cut so that it stays open
and keeps draining.
Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to
stop the infection. Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them
just because you feel better or the boil looks better. You need to take the
full course of antibiotics.
Call your doctor
If you often get
boils in the same spot, gently wash the area well with
soapy water every day. Antibacterial soap may help prevent boils. Always dry
the area well. Do not wear tight clothing over the area.
have many boils, your doctor may prescribe a cream or ointment that you put
inside your nose. This is because the bacteria that usually cause boils
sometimes live inside the nose and then spread to other areas, including your
skin. Your doctor may also advise you to take antibiotics for a longer time
than normal. These medicines may help keep boils from coming back.
Other Works Consulted
Craft N, et al. (2008). Superficial cutaneous
infections and pyodermas. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol.
2, pp. 1694–1709. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Morelli JG (2007). Cutaneous bacterial infections. In
RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics,
18th ed., pp. 2741–2745. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Swartz MN, Pasternack MS (2005). Cellulitis section of Cellulitis and subcutaneous tissue infections. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 6th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1175–1176. Philadelphia: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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