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infection; boils; carbuncle; skin; germs; pus; food ;


What are boils?

boil on the faceA boil looks like a huge pimple that sticks up through the skin. All the yucky stuff in a boil is held in by a thicker 'wall' of skin, which stops it from spreading at first.

Boils are caused by germs that usually live on the skin without causing any problems.

They are some times called furuncles (foo-run-kles).

Where boils come from

  • Germs start an infection, often around the root of a hair.
  • This infection damages a few skin cells.
  • The body sends more blood and white blood cells (which work to kill germs) into the area around the boil.
  • Other cells swell up and the area becomes hot, red and sore.
  • The middle of the boil fills with pus (that yucky looking yellow stuff), which is made by the white blood cells trying to fight the germs.

Looking after boils

Most times, boils will go away by themselves, or they 'burst' and all the pus comes out. Then they get better and your own antibodies have won the battle against the boil!

Good ideas
Boils usually hurt, so these ideas can help:

  • boilsUse a warm wet face washer on the boil to make it feel less painful.
  • You can use thick pastes or ointments from the chemist/pharmacy to make the boil come to a head (a point) and draw out the pus. These seem to help for some people.
  • Mum, dad or whoever looks after you, may give you a paracetamol tablet or syrup if it is very painful at night and you can't get to sleep.
  • Never squeeze the boil, as the germs could spread into healthy skin, or into your blood and make you ill, and you don't want that, do you?
  • See your doctor if the boil gets bigger. You may need an antibiotic.

Do not put anything on the boil which is too hot, or you may burn your skin and it will hurt more.

What to do if the pus comes out of the boil.

  • washing away germsThe pus will have germs in it which can spread the infection to other people.
  • Keep your hands clean by washing well with soap and water, then drying really well. Don't share a towel if you have a boil, as the germs could spread to others.
  • You may put a clean dressing over the boil to protect it. Make sure you throw the dressing away properly. 

    visiting the doctorIf you have a boil for ages and it really hurts, or if you feel a bit unwell or the boil seems to be spreading, then it is a good idea to get an adult to take you to the doctor.

The doctor may give you some medicine to get rid of the infection or he may lance the boil (cut it open) to get the infection out.

Sounds gross doesn't it? But if you have had a really painful big boil then you would be glad to get all that soreness and yukky stuff out.

Tips to avoid boils

It seems that some people get boils even if they take really good care of their skin, and others do not get boils even if they do not take good care. These ideas might help.

  • keep fit and healthyWash often using soap and dry your skin well.
  • Eat properly.
  • Exercise often.
  • Get plenty of sleep.

If you are following this healthy lifestyle and you still get boils, then you need to go and talk to your doctor.

Maybe you have very strong germs and your body needs help in fighting them off!!


If a boil comes up on a tight area of the skin, like the back of the neck, then it may form a carbuncle.

A carbuncle has more than one 'head' or point on it and will need to drain out of each one of them.

Cover the whole thing with a waterproof dressing and then look after it in the same way as a boil.

Food poisoning

  • Some of the germs that cause boils can cause food poisoning too. If a person has these germs on her hands when she is preparing food, the germs can get into the food. The germs can make a poison (toxin) that can make others ill. The food does not look different or smell different, so people do not know that it can make them ill.
  • All people should wash their hands really well before they start to handle food.
  • Anyone who has a skin infection, such as a boil or school sore, should take special care, and it is probably best if that person does not handle anyone else's food.

A yucky poem

Here's a really 'yucky' poem from Nick:

If you have a boil
Don't stick it in the soil
Or rub it in the dirt
And save it for dessert!
When you go to the doctor
He'll get a needle
He will stick it in the boil
Suck out all the pus
And it will be gone, no fuss!

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim 

"Boils usually don't last long and they often get better all by themselves.  If you get boils often then it is a good idea for you to have a talk with your doctor.

A boil on an eyelid is called a stye."

 If you enjoy gross and yucky stuff, check out this site How stuff works - 10 gross things  

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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