Getting rid of boils is easy to do, and you should see good results within a few days. In most cases you can get rid of that pesky boil using your household medical supplies. For larger boils, you’ll probably need to see a doctor to make sure it doesn’t get infected.
Types of Boils
A boil, or abscess, is a collection of pus that forms under the skin, although not all boils are made the same. There are four types of boils.
Furuncles and carbuncles: A furuncle is primarily caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph). Furuncles occur in hair follicles and can have more than one opening onto the skin. You may also develop a carbuncle, which is generally larger than furuncles and can also become chronic. Carbuncles may feel hard inside the skin.
Cystic acne: Cystic acne occurs when the oil ducts underneath the skin get clogged and infected, resulting in abscesses that are much bigger than common acne. Cystic acne is both a type of acne and a type of boil that is associated with more severe forms of acne.
Hidradenitis suppurativa: This condition involves multiple abscesses forming in the armpit or groin area, caused by infected sweat glands. Hidradenitis suppurativa is resistant to antibiotics and often requires surgery to remove the affected sweat glands.
Pilonidal cyst: This boil forms in the crease of buttocks. A hair follicle becomes infected and inflamed, soon resulting in a tender, firm boil. Pilonidal cysts can occur after long periods of sitting.
Causes of Boils
Boils are usually caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (staph). These bacteria enter the body through the hair follicle or tiny breaks in the skin. Most staph infections develop into abscesses and can become serious very quickly. Boils are also caused due to blocked sweat glands. Certain health problems make people more susceptible staph infections such as boils. Examples are:
- Poor hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Poor immune system
- Exposure to harsh chemicals
- Friction from tight clothing
Home Remedies for Boils
There are many effective home remedies you can use to alleviate the pain and get rid of your boil.
1. Warm Compress
Applying a warm washcloth or flannel compress to your boil helps to rupture and drain it because the heat expands the blood vessels underneath the skin and increases blood and lymph flow. The warmth may also help sooth the pain, even though its promoting local inflammation.
As soon as you notice a boil beginning to form, you should begin treating with warm compresses. The sooner you begin treatment, the less likely it is that complications will occur.
- Make a warm compress by holding a clean washcloth under warm water until wet, and then squeeze out the excess water and apply it directly on the boil. Press the warm, damp cloth gently onto the boil for five to ten minutes. Repeat three to four times a day.
- Hold the compress on the boil for 10 minutes. Repeat this as often as you can, at least twice a day, until the boil comes to a head or disappears.
- Always use a clean washcloth or towel every time you treat the boil to limit the possibility of contamination.
- Wash any towels and clothing that has come into contact with the boil with very hot, sudsy water to destroy the bacteria.
2. Saline Solution
Saline solution (saltwater) may help draw out pus and dry out a boil. Dip a washcloth in saline and place it on the boil.
- You can purchase a saline solution from a pharmacy. This is recommended over attempting to make your own, because it is easy to oversaturate the saline and create a very drying solution.
- If you do want to make your own, mix one teaspoon of salt for every cup of hot water.
- Only use the saline solution once your boil has popped.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Another easy home remedy for a boil is to apply apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a natural antiseptic and has antimicrobial properties which help fight skin infections. Applying this antimicrobial agent will help you get rid of your boil.
- Mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and honey. Dilute it in water and soak a cotton ball in it. Then place the pad on your boil.
- Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Do this 2 or more times per day.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic, antiseptic and antifungal (1, 2). It is commonly used to treat skin infections. It can help get rid of boils because it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties (3). It’s also useful for preventing the spread of the bacteria once the boil has burst.
Dip a cotton ball into the tea tree oil. Rub the cotton ball gently on the boil. Apply it at least 3-4 times a day.
- Tea tree oil can trigger allergic reactions in some people (it’s rare), so stop applying it if you notice the skin around the boil is getting irritated and puffy.
- Tea tree oil shouldonly be used on the skin and never ingested.
5. Castor Oil
Moisten a cotton ball with some castor oil and apply it directly on the boil. Secure the cotton ball with gauze or a band-aid. This may help drain the boil and help it heal.
- You can get castor oil and many pharmacies, grocery stores, and health food stores.
6. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is another essential oil that has antibacterial properties and is effective against antibiotic resistant viruses that can cause boils (4). It is an effective natural cure for boils.
- Dip a cotton ball in eucalyptus oil and rub it directly on the boil. Repeat every 12 hours.
7. Neem Oil
Neem oil has been used as an antiseptic agent since the ancient times. It is very effective against viruses, bacteria and fungi. In order to treat your boil, dip a cotton ball into the neem oil. Rub the cotton ball gently on the boil. Repeat every 12 hours.
- Extract the juice of 2-3 cloves of garlic. Dip a cotton ball in the juice and apply the cotton ball on the boil. Leave it there for a few minutes. Do this a few times per day.
- Alternatively, you can make a garlic paste. Mix the garlic juice with turmeric powder and apply the paste on the boil. Leave it there for 10 minutes. Do this once or twice per day.
Onions have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties which help fight the infection and speed up the healing process by drawing out the heat in the boil and aiding it to burst (10). It can also help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.
- Cut the onion into thick slices, and then put them on your boil and cover it with a cloth.
- Change the slices every 2-3 hours until the boil bursts and the wound drains.
10. Turmeric Paste
Turmeric is the main ingredient in curries. Curcumin compound in turmeric has antiseptic and antibiotic properties (11, 12, 13, 14, 15). You can either ingest turmeric powder or make a paste. Turmeric paste may help dissolve and heal the boil in as little as three days.
- You can make a paste of turmeric powder and place it directly on the boil. Cover it with a piece of gauze to help it heal and prevent it from staining your clothes.
11. Cumin Paste
Cumin has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects (16). Cumin paste may help dissolve and heal the boil. You will need cumin powder to make a paste.
- Make a paste of cumin powder. Place it directly on the boil. Cover it with a piece of gauze.
12. Milk Cream
Milk cream is considered an effective home remedy for boils. It helps soften the surface of the boil so the head breaks and the pus flows out.
- Apply some fresh milk cream on the boil. Leave it on for 30 minutes. Repeat a few times a day until you see good results.
13. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is very effective remedy for various health and skin problems. Fill your bath tub with warm water mixed with a cup of Epsom salt. Take a bath. It will alleviate the boils.
- You can also use Epsom salt topically. Dissolve 1/2 cup of Epsom salt in 2 cups of warm water.
- Dip a clean washcloth in the solution and place it on your boil.
- Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat a few times daily until the boil begins to drain.
Medical Treatments for Boils
Use antiseptic cleansers. Wash the boil and surrounding area with a medicated, germ killing cleanser. This may not only help rupture and drain the boil, but may also keep infection from spreading.
- You can get antiseptic washes at most pharmacies and health supply stores.
Take pain medication. Boils can cause pain that ranges from mild to severe. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help alleviate associated pain and possible swelling.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Ibuprofen may also help alleviate some of the swelling associated with the procedure.
Dab benzoyl peroxide on the boil. Over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide creams, which are usually used for acne, may also help you get rid of boils. Dab on a small amount of benzoyl peroxide twice a day.
Apply antibiotic cream to the boil. Apply an antibacterial ointment up to twice per day and cover the surface with a bandage. This can help kill any bacteria in the boil or on the affected area.
- You can use an antibiotic ointment such asneomycin, bacitracin, polymyxin B, or a combination.
- You can purchase antibiotic ointments and creams at most pharmacies and some grocery stores.
- Use the ointment as indicated on the packaging.
- Some people have allergies to antibiotic ointment, particularly bacitracin. Do a patch trial on an unaffected area of skin before using antibiotic ointment.
Bandage the boil. Loosely cover the boil with a sterile gauze pad or bandage when it begins draining. This can help keep the area dry, clean, and prevent infection from spreading.
- Replace the gauze or bandage any time it gets moist.
- You can purchase sterile gauze and bandages at any pharmacy, health supply store, and some grocery stores.
When to See Your Doctor
There are some situations where you need to see a doctor. Make sure you see your doctor if;
- Natural remedies do not help within 2-3 weeks
- The boil is on your face, or if you feel over-fatigued
- The boil is very painful or limits movement or sitting
- You are running a fever
Also seek medical help if, during home treatment of boils, you see reddish streaks coming from the boil, if it gets worse, or another boil develops. This is particularly important because of the recent rise in antibiotic resistant infections that may require more intensive medical care.
Also, be aware of MRSA, a potentially life-threatening form of staph that is resistant to antibiotics. MRSA can look like a common boil, so it is important to see your doctor if symptoms don’t improve or you have been in contact with someone with MRSA or who has a chronic illness.