Boils, also known as furuncles, are deep hair follicle or oil gland infections commonly caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus.  Boil infections cause a painful swollen area on the skin due to the accumulation of pus underneath dead tissue. The most common places for boils to appear are on the

  • Neck and Face
  • Shoulders and armpits,
  • As well as the groin area and buttocks

When a boil forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty. Individual boils that are clustered together are considered to be a more serious type of infection known as carbuncles.  If a boil infection spreads into deeper tissues of the skin, it becomes an abscess. Although sometimes an abscess will open and drain spontaneously, it often needs to be treated by a health-care provider. Severe abscesses can even require drainage in an operating room.

First Aid for a boil infection starts with keeping the skin clean

  • Wash the area of the infection with soap and warm water frequently.
  • Place a warm compress on the boil several times a day. Heat encourages the formation of pus which helps the boil break, drain and heal. Use each cloth only once, and when finished, rinse it well using hot water.
  • Cover the boil with a clean, dry dressing to contain any drainage. Change the dressing frequently, especially if the boil is oozing. Dispose of dressings by sealing them in a bag.
  • Anytime you touch a boil or change the dressing, wash your hands thoroughly when finished.

When treating boils, it is important to remember that boils are a skin infection.   A skin boil will most often burst and drain itself.  It is not recommended for anyone to lance a boil at home because, if done incorrectly, it can cause the infection to spread.  Anyone considering lancing a boil should seek the assistance of a medical practitioner.