A boil is an infection of a hair follicle. It occurs when bacteria (usually staphylococcus) multiply under the surface of the skin in a hair follicle. A boil looks like a small red lump on the skin that is tender. The surrounding skin may be swollen and inflamed. Pus fills the centre of the boil.
Small boils are common and will go away on their own without treatment. Larger boils will usually require treatment. Common places for boils include the neck, face, armpits, arms, and buttocks and around the back passage (anus).
Typically, after several days to a week, the boil will burst, and pus will discharge out. The pain tends to improve when the boil bursts. The infection in the surrounding skin will usually settle gradually over several days, but you may be left with a scar the site.
A boil may need incision and drainage (a small cut is made by a doctor to let the pus drain).
Treatment commonly involves draining the pus and/or taking a course of antibiotics. They usually occur as a one-off in a healthy person. If you have recurring boils you are advised to see your GP to have tests to check for an underlying cause.
Antibiotic treatments we may prescribe if clinically appropriate:
Please see the 'Common Treatments' section below for further information.