How is a boil or carbuncle treated?

A boil or carbuncle should never be squeezed or pricked with a pin or sharp object to release the pus and fluid. This can spread the infection to other parts of the skin.

If left alone, a boil will break and drain on its own over time. In certain cases, a doctor may need to cut into the skin to drain the pus. Once the fluid and pus drains from the boil or carbuncle, it will heal. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if there is a serious infection.

If you have a boil, you can do the following:

  • Apply warm, moist compresses (such as a damp washcloth) several times a day. This can speed healing and relieve some of the pain and pressure caused by the boil. A separate washcloth (and towel) should be used.
  • See a healthcare provider if the boil persists or comes back, or if it is located on the spine or on your face.
  • If you have a fever or other serious symptoms with the boil, see your doctor. Patients who have diabetes or who have a condition that affects the immune system should see a doctor for the treatment of the boil.

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