How to get rid of a boil

A boil is a type of skin infection that originates in the hair follicle and oil gland. Infection develops and the skin turns red.

After some time, a tender lump starts to appear. After a few days, a pus collects under the skin, which changes the color of the lump from red to white. A boil is medically known as furuncle. At a glance, it looks like a pimple, but a severe version.

It is caused by bacteria, the most common is Staph. A boil can affect any parts of the body, but is more common in areas where there is a lot of sweat and friction such as the buttocks, armpit, inner thing, and behind the knee. (1)

What causes boils?

A staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria is the primary cause of boils. Some fungi can also cause boils. They enter the body through cuts in the skin or tiny nicks. They can also find their way down the hair to the follicle.

A person with strong immune system will not be easily affected by boils. However, those with immune compromised conditions such as those with poor nutrition and diabetes are susceptible to infection. A poor hygiene can also put you in great risk. (2)

Image 1 : A severely infected boil indicating that you need to seek medical help
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Picture 2 : Popping a boil using the bottle technique
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Signs and symptoms

  • You will notice a hard, inflamed, and reddened lump, which is just about half an inch in size.
  • After a few days, the lump becomes soft, bigger, and painful.
  • On the top of the boil, you will notice a pocket of pus indicating that there is an ongoing infection. (2, 3)

Who are at risk for boils?

  • Those who are participating in contact sports
  • People who use shared equipment
  • People whose immune system is compromised such as those with diabetes, HIV, and
  • receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer
  • Obese people
  • Those with poor nutrition
  • People living in close quarters such as in the military barracks and prisons
  • Those homeless people
  • Those individuals with skin conditions like scabies and eczema (4)

When should you call out for help?

  • If you have a swollen lymph node
  • If you have a fever
  • If the pain is severe
  • If the red streaks appear on the surrounding skin of the boil
  • If a second boil appears (4)

How to get rid of boils at home?

How to make a boil go away? There are a lot of things you can do to get rid of boil and ease boil pain right at the comfort of your home. One of them is warm compress. A warm compress helps alleviate the pain and draw the pus to the surface of the skin. As you repeatedly soak the boil in warm water, the boil will eventually burst.

This may take some time though, usually around seven to ten days. Wash the boil with clean water and antibacterial soap. To avoid secondary infection, keep the boil site clean, apply topical antibiotic, and a bandage. (5)

If the infection gets severe, you should see your doctor right away, especially if you start to have fever. The doctor will ask for blood work and will prescribe the right medications. Usually, the doctor will order for culture and sensitivity to find out what type of bacteria is causing the boils. This will also determine the right type of antibiotic to use.

If you want to get rid of boils at home, feel free to try the following:

  • Increase your intake of vitamin A and E – Vitamin A is an immune booster while vitamin E keeps the epidermis healthy. Sources of vitamin A are spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, broccoli, and winter squash. On the other hand, papaya, avocado, kale, olives, and nuts are rich in vitamin E. if you don’t like these types of foods, then you can always take supplements. A lot of vitamin supplements are readily available over the counter.
  • Diluted tea tree oil – It has antibacterial property, which makes it perfect for boil and other skin diseases. Make sure you dilute it with a carrier oil. Applying pure tea tree oil can be too harsh on the skin. A good carrier oil is jojoba and almond oil. Apply on the boil site using a cotton swab. Do this several times a day and you will see a significant improvement after a few days.
  • Castor oil – How to get rid of boils on inner thigh? All you need is castor oil. The inner thigh area is sensitive and so a gentler oil should be used. Castor oil has antibacterial property, but at the same time it is also gentle on the skin. You can use it in undiluted form. With the use of a cotton swab, apply a castor oil on the boil several times during the day. After a few days, you will be able to see a significant improvement. (6, 7)
  • Neem/Indian lilac – It has antibacterial property and astringent effect. How to get a boil to pop overnight? The answer is neem. Its astringent effect is the one responsible in busting the boil overnight.
  • Use the bottle technique – How to get a boil to pop overnight using a bottle? Get a clean glass bottle and put it in a pot of hot water. Let it stand there for about 15 minutes. Remove the bottle and wipe the water out of it. Place the mouth of the bottle over the boil making sure that the entire rim is touching your skin. Let it remain there until the bottle completely cool down. You will then notice that the boil breaks and the content is drained. The principle on the bottle technique is to create a contracting pressure as the air inside the bottle cools down. It creates a vacuum effect, which pulls the head out of the boil. Do not forget to clean the boil site with clean water and antibacterial soap. (8, 9)

How do you prevent skin boils?

  • You should practice a good personal hygiene.
  • Eat nutritious foods to keep your body healthy.
  • If you have minor wounds, you should clean and treat it to prevent infection.
  • If any of your family member is infected with boils, you shouldn’t use his personal belongings or even share towels. Keep the beddings and clothes clean at all times.
  • If you are participating in active sports, you should use antibacterial soap.

Boils usually disappear with simple home remedy. If you want to know how to get rid of boils forever, the key lies on prevention. Just follow the preventive measures mentioned above and you will surely be able to keep yourself safe not just from boils, but other types of infection. (9, 10)



Published by Dr. Raj MD under Diseases and Conditions.
Article was last reviewed on December 24th, 2018.

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