Fact Checked

A boil is skin infection that begins in a hair follicle or oil gland which is also known as abscess of skin. A boil begins with a reddened and tender area and eventually the area becomes firm and hard. The center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with infection-fighting white blood cells that spread into the bloodstream to eliminate the infection. A collection of white blood cells, bacteria and proteins is known as pus, then this pus “forms a head” which can be opened by surgery or drains out through the surface of the skin. Boils usually happen on the armpits, buttocks, shoulders, neck and when it develops on the eyelid it is called a sty.


  • A boil begins as a hard, reddened and painful lump about less than an inch and becomes large, soft and the pain becomes severe. After some time, pockets of pus develop on top of the boil.
  • The skin found around the boil becomes painful, red and swollen and more boils develops around the original boil
  • The affected person will have fever
  • The lymph nodes in the affected area are swelling


Splinters or foreign material that becomes lodged in the skin and develops an infection.
  • Boils can be caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus which enters the body through small breaks in the skin or travels down to the follicles of hair.
  • Ingrown hair
  • Splinters or foreign material that becomes lodged in the skin and develops an infection.
  • Can be due to acne caused by clogged sweat glands that becomes infected
  • Any breaks in the skin such as a scrape and cut that can develop into a boil or abscess.
  • An inflammation or infection of the hair follicles which is also known as folliculitis can develop into a boil.

The bacterium that causes a boil is very contagious. The infection can be spread to other parts of the body or it can be spread to other people by sharing of personal belongings and skin-to-skin contact with the infected person.


  • Apply a warm compress on the affected area for at least 20 minutes at a time for 3-4 times every day. Heat application helps with the proper circulation of blood in the area and helps the body fight off infection by bringing antibodies and white blood cells to the affected area.
  • If the development of boil is due to shaving, avoid shaving the area until the boil has totally healed and prevent making the condition worse.
  • Boil ½ cup of water and add cornmeal. Mix them well in order to make a thick paste and apply the cornmeal mush on the boil and cover it with a clean cloth. Repeat the procedure every 1-2 hours until the boil drains.
  • Cut a thick slice of onion and place it over the affected area, then wrap it with clean cloth. Change the poultice every 3-4 hours until the boil drains. Onion has antimicrobial properties that helps draw blood and “heat” to the boil.
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