What are boils and how are they treated?

Dr. Greene's Answer

The infection usually begins with swelling or redness where the bacteria gets into the skin. The center of the infection liquefies as pus collects. They can be quite tender. Boils are 1-5 cm in size.

The pus will usually drain spontaneously.

Kids get it from being exposed to the infecting bacteria. It is more common in kids with diabetes, malnutrition, or other reason to have their immune system not working at full strength.

Before a boil drains we often use moist, warm compresses (provides comfort, localizes the pus) 4 times a day.

Usually, they drain pus spontaneously and will heal with or without scarring within several days. Sometimes they need to be opened and drained. Sometimes they need additional treatment, such as antibiotics.

Air is useful for healing, but so is keeping it clean. If a child is doing something where it might get dirty, covering it temporarily can be wise.

Last medical review on: July 02, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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