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Boils

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 photo of a boil
A boil often starts as an itchy or tender spot.
A photo of a boil
Boils can sometimes leak pus.
A photo of a boil
Boils can appear anywhere on your body.
A photo of a carbuncle
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.

Do

  • 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

Don’t

  • 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

Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

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 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: 09 September 2020
Next review due: 09 September 2023