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.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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