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
Things you can do to help boils
There are things you can do to treat boils yourself and stop them coming back.
soak a flannel 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 a 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
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 have a boil on your face
- you have a boil and a long-term condition such as diabetes
- the skin around your boil feels hot and painful
- 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)
- you have a boil and you feel hot and shivery
Treatment for boils
A GP can check if you need treatment.
You may need:
- a small procedure to drain the boil to get rid of the pus
Causes of boils
You may be more likely to get boils if you have a long-term condition such as diabetes or HIV.
You may also be more likely to get boils if:
- you have close contact with someone else who has boils
- you cut your skin while shaving
Carbuncles are less common and mostly affect middle-aged men.
Page last reviewed: 9 September 2020
Next review due: 9 September 2023