A boil is a hard and painful lump that fills with pus. Most boils go away on their own. See a GP if you keep getting them.

Check if you have a boil

A boil in its early stages on white skin. It is a raised dark pink lump with a raised yellow and white centre.
A boil often starts as an itchy or tender spot.
A boil on white skin leaking pus. The lump is raised, with yellow pus at the centre. The surrounding skin is red and bleeding.
Boils can sometimes leak pus.
A boil about 2cm wide on the wrist of a person with dark brown skin. It is raised and the skin around it is darker.
Boils can appear anywhere on your body.

Things you can do to help boils

There are things you can do to treat boils yourself and stop them coming back.


  • soak a clean cloth in warm water and hold it against the boil for 10 minutes 4 times a day

  • clean the area around the boil with antibacterial soap if pus comes out

  • cover the area with a dressing or gauze until it heals

  • bathe or shower every day and wash your hands regularly

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain

  • wash your towels and bedding at least once a week at high temperature

  • try to lose weight if you are very overweight and have boils between folds of your skin


  • do not pick, squeeze or pierce a boil

  • do not share your towel with other people until the boil has gone

  • do not go to a swimming pool or gym until the boil has gone –⁠ you could pass the infection on to others

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you've had a boil for 2 weeks and the things you've tried are not helping
  • you keep getting boils
  • you have a group of boils (carbuncle)

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you have a boil and:

  • it is on your face
  • the skin around your boil feels hot, painful and swollen
  • you feel hot and shivery
  • you have a weakened immune system – this could be from taking treatments such as steroids, or having a condition like diabetes

You can call 111 or get help from NHS 111 online.

Treatment for boils

A GP can check if you need treatment.

You may need:

Causes of boils

You may be more likely to get boils if you have a long-term condition that affects your immune system, such as diabetes or HIV.

You may also be more likely to get boils if:

Carbuncles are less common and mostly affect middle-aged men.

Page last reviewed: 20 June 2023
Next review due: 20 June 2026