Getting to the Bottom of Skin Boils

May 7th 2016

It may not always be possible to prevent skin boils from developing on your body, but taking measures to ensure your hands are washed regularly and your personal items are clean can reduce the risk of bacterial infections. Keep your cuts and abrasions covered and clean to eliminate the risk of boil-causing bacteria from entering your body.

Causes of Skin Boils

Skin boils are caused by staphylococcal bacteria that enter the body by traveling down the hair to the follicle or through small cuts or nicks on the skin. Skin boils are more likely to develop on your body if you have diabetes or problems with your immune system. People with poor nutrition and hygiene are also susceptible to skin boils, as well as individuals exposed to harsh chemicals that may irritate the skin.

Symptoms of Skin Boils

Common symptoms of a skin boil include a red, hard and painful lump about half an inch in size. You may notice the lump becomes larger, softer and more painful after a few days, and a pocket of pus may form at the top of the skin boil. Severe symptoms of a skin boil include swollen, warm and painful lumps that cluster around the original skin boil. Some patients also experience a fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Seek medical attention for a skin boil if the pain becomes severe, the boil does not drain, the skin turns red or possesses red streaks and more boils appear on the skin. Also consult with a physician if your lymph nodes swell and you develop a fever.

Treatment of Skin Boils

Skin boils do not usually require immediate medical attention unless severe symptoms develop or you have a heart murmur, weak immune system or diabetes. You can typically treat a skin boil at home by applying a warm compress to the boil to naturally drain the pus and relieve pain. Boils that do not drain or boils that produce intense pain may require a consultation with a physician. Medical treatment may prompt your doctor to make a small incision into the boil and drain the pus. Some physicians may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate bacteria in the body stemming from a skin boil.


A skin boil is an infection that begins within the oil gland or a hair follicle. You may notice skin boils appear more commonly on your neck, armpits, shoulders, buttocks or face. Skin boils may also develop in clusters, known as a carbuncle. Know the basics of a skin boil to determine the causes, symptoms and treatments for this type of infection.

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