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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.
A group of boils growing together (carbuncle) on the neck on white skin. It's leaking yellow pus and the surrounding skin is red.
When lots of boils form together it's called a carbuncle.

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:

  • a small procedure to drain the boil to get rid of the pus
  • antibiotics

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:

  • you're a man
  • you've been in close contact with someone with boils
  • you have certain skin conditions, such as eczema
  • you take certain medicines, such as steroids
  • you’re living with obesity or malnutrition

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

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