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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.

A photo of a boilA photo of a boilA photo of a boil

There are things you can do to treat boils yourself and stop them coming back.


  • 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


  • 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

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

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.