Boils can be treated, but they also may be preventable.  If you suspect that you are getting a boil, or any type of staph infection, skin lesion, or other skin conditions that cause skin inflammation or redness, please seek medical attention.

Only a licensed physician or health care professional can adequately determine the nature of your condition.  Only blood tests can reveal the type and severity of a bacterial infection.  This is why you must trust your doctor, first and foremost, before attempting to address skin infections at home.  This is especially true for people with severe, or large boils, people with poor immune systems, diabetes, circulatory issues, or any health condition that may lessen your body’s ability to naturally fight off infection.

Boils can be treated by cleaning and disinfecting the skin.   This is the best way to eliminate boils when they are treated early.  Boils that have formed larger pockets are typically painful to the touch and carry excess pus, forming a hardened lump or raised area of skin.  When boils increase in size, they quickly get to a point where they need to be drained.  You can drain boils by using a warm compress, creating a heated barrier on top of the boil which draws healing blood to the affected area, eventually pushing the pus toward the top of the skin.  Repeating this process, applying multiple warm compresses per day, will eventually cause the boil to open up or burst.  It is critically important that you clean the skin around the boil constantly, preferably with an antibacterial soap.  When the boil begins to drain, this is even more important, as harmful staph bacteria can travel to other areas of skin, on its own, or by touching an infected region with your hands and spreading it to other parts of your body.  Be vigilant and be thorough with your hygiene when you have boils.

Only a licensed physician or health care professional can give you sound advice on how to treat your boils.  Every person’s situation and health condition is different.  In some cases, if your boil is serious, or if your health care provider is concerned about the staph infection spreading on your body or infecting your blood, she will recommend surgery and or antibiotics.  Surgery usually involves lancing (opening) and draining the pus out of your boil, while vigorously disinfecting the area and cleaning out the abscess.  The doctor may recommend that your entire body be disinfected with an antibacterials soap.  She may also recommend that you clean and disinfect many items in your home and car that you may come in contact with.  These preventative measures may or may not be necessary, depending on the severity of your boils, and the strain of staph involved.  You also may be required to take antibiotics before and after this surgery to prevent further infection.

People with staphylococcal skin infection should avoid skin contact with shared items and community facilities.  They should never handle food, and diligently clean and disinfect their entire bodies, including hands, face, and nostrils.  People that are more likely to carry harmful strains of staph, such as MRSA, should be screened, when possible.  If you visit a hospital, they may take samples to determine what strain of staph you are infected with.  Or if you develop a boil during or after a visit to the hospital, you would be advised to inform the hospital of your condition and or see a doctor immediately.  Swab samples are taken from the nose and sent to a lab for testing.  If MRSA is detected, those people may be treated in a disinfected room with limited human access.  This is critically important in hospitals and other clean environments, in order to contain harmful strains of staph and prevent cross-contamination and spread of infection.

It was recently discovered that some of the most harmful strains ever discovered were found on the International Space Station.  Such sanitary environments are particularly vulnerable for harboring MRSA and screening is one of the most important ways to manage the problem.   In some hospitals and medical facilities, people may be routinely screened for MRSA, as soon as they are admitted or at some point during their stay.

With cases of recurring boils, antibiotics may also be prescribed, even if surgery is not needed.  However, this is sometimes frowned upon by certain physicians, for concerns of the patient developing a resistance.  Antibiotics are typically prescribed for sufferers of recurring boils or persons having boils that are large in size or derived from a dangerous strain of Staph aureus bacteria.

Antibiotics used as an effective treatment for hospital-acquired MRSA:

  • quinupristin
  • dalfopristin
  • ceftaroline
  • telavancin
  • daptomycin
  • vancomycin
  • linezolid
  • tedizolid
  • clindamycin
  • minocycline
  • doxycycline
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

In some cases, topical antibiotic ointments may be prescribed before oral or intravenous antibiotics are prescribed.  In too many cases, topical antibiotics will not effectively treat serious boils, but it is often a preferred first choice of treatment by medical doctors in order to prevent overuse of oral antibiotics.  This overuse has been associated with an increase in resistance to harmful staph, so in many cases, doctors may be more likely to avoid prescribing stronger antibiotic cycles, with hopes that their patient can manage less serious infections with antibacterial cleansing and topical antibiotic ointments.