Boils are hard lumps that form under the surface of the skin. Although they typically occur on parts of the body covered by clothes, they can still be very inconvenient and unappealing. That’s not to mention the pain that they usually cause.
If you develop one, you may decide to seek advice on how to lance a boil at home without having to go to your doctor. However, popping or lancing a boil on your own could make your problems even worse, which is why it might not be such a good idea.
In this article, we will explain what boils are, how they develop, and how they are usually treated. We will also discuss the dangers of lancing a boil on your own and look into some effective home remedies you can try instead.
The Lowdown on Boils
A boil – sometimes referred to as a furuncle or abscess – is a painful skin infection that occurs as a result of an inflammation of a sweat gland or hair follicle. This inflammation is most often caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium which is also responsible for many ailments ranging from skin infections and food poisoning to potentially life-threatening conditions like pneumonia and sepsis. The bacterium enters the body through tiny cuts on the skin and eventually reaches the hair follicle.
First appearing as a hard lump underneath the skin, a boil usually becomes softer as it fills up with pus, developing a balloon-like shape in the process. The pus will eventually build up and form a white or yellow center visible on the surface of the boil. This development process usually occurs over a week.
Boils typically appear on the areas of the skin that are prone to sweat and oil buildups, including the armpits, buttocks, groin, and the area under the breasts. A boil can also form on the face, most often on the eyelid, in which case it is referred to as a sty. Boils can appear on their own or as part of a cluster of boils known as a carbuncle. The latter is often a sign of a more serious infection that requires treatment.
While anyone can develop a boil, this infection is more common in people who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes or have problems with the immune systems. Unhealthy diet and poor hygiene are also seen as risk factors. In addition, you may be more susceptible to skin infections if you regularly use beauty products containing harsh chemicals which could irritate your skin.
How Are Boils Treated?
In most cases, a boil will drain and go away on its own within a few weeks, without requiring medical attention. However, in case of complications or a serious infection, you may need to visit your doctor. In addition to carbuncles forming on your skin, other signs of serious infection may include:
- Redness, swelling, and pain around the boil
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Fever that isn’t accompanied by other symptoms of the flu or common cold
If you have a serious infection or if your boil doesn’t go away after a while, your doctor will first run tests to determine the cause of the problem. After that, they will most likely prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic to reduce the infection. Depending on the results, they may also drain the boil using surgical equipment to make a small incision in the tip sterile gauze to soak up all the leftover pus.
This procedure is called lancing. It involves the use of a small, sharp instrument to open a boil.
Should You Lance a Boil at Home?
As already said, most boils don’t require treatment. Despite that, likely because the procedure appears very simple, many people decide to lance a boil on their own using a numbing agent, a sterile blade, cleaning supplies, and gauze. If you look up “how to lance a boil” online, you’ll find many guides that detail the steps of the process. However, few of them warn readers about the dangers involved.
First of all, a boil may appear much smaller on the surface than it actually is, but you won’t know that until you’ve already cut into it. Instead of just making a tiny incision in the tip of the boil, you may accidentally cut much deeper to get rid of pus, which could lead to bleeding and other complications.
Boils also house bacteria which can easily spread to other parts of the body and make your infection much worse. This can be particularly dangerous if you’re lancing a boil on your face, seeing as the infection could very easily spread to the brain and become life-threatening.
The 3 Best Home Remedies for Boils
By choosing to lance a boil on your own, you risk turning a small problem into a much more serious and potentially fatal infection. As such, you should never attempt to pop or lance a boil at home.
If you want to get rid of the boil for aesthetic reasons or because it’s showing signs of a more serious infection, you should always seek your doctor’s help. Otherwise, it is best to wait for the boil to go away. The following three home remedies may also help speed up the recovery process:
- Warm Compresses – Heat promotes optimal blood circulation, which is known to help the body fight infections more effectively. Take a warm compress and apply it to the area of the skin affected by a boil for about 20 minutes. Repeat this 3-4 times a day until the boil disappears.
- Epsom Salt – Epsom salt is a versatile home remedy that can also help treat boils by drying out the pus. Simply dissolve some Epsom salt in water and soak a soft cloth in it before applying it to the affected area of the skin. Keep it there for 20 minutes and repeat multiple times a day.
- Tea Tree Oil – Known for its strong antiseptic and antibacterial effect, tea tree oil is the go-to home remedy for boils. Because it’s very strong, you should dilute five drops of the oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil (olive and coconut oil are good choices). Use a Q-tip to apply it to the affected area of the skin two or three times a day and keep doing so until the boil is gone.
Getting Rid of a Boil Safely
If you want to get rid of a boil safely, you should never lance it on your own. Instead, either have it looked at and drained by your doctor or wait until it disappears and use one of the home remedies described here to speed up the process. Make sure to keep the affected area of the skin clean and wash your hands before and after you touch the boil in order to prevent the infection from spreading.
As it grows, your boil will eventually open and start draining. When that happens, use antibacterial soap and wash it very gently to remove the pus before cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol. Carefully apply a topical antibiotic to the area and cover it with a bandage. Repeat the process up to three times a day and use warm compresses for a few days to ensure that the wound heals properly.