If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having a boil, you probably want to know how to prevent boils in the future. Boils are caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus, and are painful, pus-filled bumps that can grow as large as a baseball (yes they can grow that large, although they usually don’t get quite that big) before finally rupturing and draining. They may last for a couple of weeks before finally draining and shrinking.
While boils aren’t usually serious, they occasionally do lead to serious complications such as sepsis (an infection of the blood), endocarditis (an infection of the heart) and osteomyelitis (a bone infection). Even when they don’t lead to any serious complications, though, they are uncomfortable and something best prevented if possible.
You can’t always prevent skin boils but sometimes you can. Taking these steps can help. They can also help prevent many other types of infections, so even if you aren’t too worried about the possibility of boils, we recommend you adopt the following habits if you haven’t already.
Wash Your Hands – Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent boils(1), as well as many other illnesses, including the common cold and influenza. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If you can’t wash with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may cause dry skin, though, so soap and water is a better choice when available.
Keep Wounds Covered – Keep cuts, sores, scratches and insect bites clean and covered until they heal. Any break in the skin, no matter how small, provides an opening for bacteria to enter and can lead to a boil. Wash the area with a mild soap and water before applying a bandage. This will help prevent other types of infections, too, not just boils.
Don’t Share Personal Items – Sharing personal items like makeup, razors, washcloths or towels, sheets or pillowcases, clothing and athletic equipment can spread bacteria that causes boils from one person to another. Sharing personal items like this, by the way, can spread other types of infections you don’t want, too, including ringworm and scabies. The Mayo Clinic website also recommend washing your own sheets, towels and other personal items in hot water if you’ve got any type of open sore or infection on your skin, so you don’t spread your own germs to other areas of your body.
Don’t Squeeze, Prick with Pins, or Otherwise Try to Pop Pimples or Boils – It can be tempting to do so but that only makes inflammation, swelling and pain worse. If you do rupture a pimple or boil, the infection can spread. What starts out as a mere pimple may turn into a large boil or what started out as one boil may turn into several boils in a small area (technically referred to as a carbuncle). Plus, once you break the skin, you provide an opening for all sorts of other germs to enter.
We’ve told you how to prevent boils, but even if you do all those things, sometimes boils still develop. Things like diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, disorders of the immune system and exposure to skin irritants increase the likelihood of boils, even if you follow all the recommended steps to prevent them.
If you have a fever along with a boil, if you have multiple boils or recurring boils, or if your boil is extremely painful, we recommend seeing a doctor. Otherwise, you can try applying warm compresses to help reduce pain and to promote draining. We also recommend a homeopathic remedy called BoilX, which reduces symptoms like itching, tenderness, pain and inflammation while promoting healing. To learn more about BoilX and how it can help you cope with a boil, just follow the link.
(1)Mayo Clinic: Prevention