The medical name for a boil is a furuncle. It is an abscess that forms at the bottom of a hair follicle when infected by a particular type of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus.

Why and How Do They occur?

Most people with boils are healthy and have good personal hygiene. But they carry Staphyloccus Aureus on the surface of their skin. We do not know why this occurs. But 10-20% of the population are Staphyloccus Aureu carriers. 

Staphylococcus aureus is most commonly carried in the nostrils, armpits, between the legs and in the cleft between the buttocks. It may be transferred to other sites from the nostrils via the finger nails.

Tiny nicks or grazes or something rubbing against the skin can activate the bacteria into the wall of a hair follicle which is a weak point in the skin's defences. Once stimulated, the bacteria causes a boil which goes on to run its usual course of about 10 days.

Boils are sometimes related to immune deficiency, anaemia, diabetes, smoking or iron deficiency. 


Depends on the severity of the boil. Below is general advice to follow:

  • Use an antiseptic or antibacterial soap for a week then twice weekly for several weeks.
    The cleanser may cause a little dryness.
  • Use a hand sanitiser regularly to reduce the chance of reinfecting yourself or others with contaminated hands.
  • Wipe the entire skin surface daily for a week with 70% isopropyl alcohol in water (this will make the skin dry).
  • Apply a topical antiseptic such as povidone iodine or chlorhexidine cream to the boils and cover with a square of gauze.
  • Other members of the family with boils should also follow a skin cleansing regime.

If your boil is severe you may need to visit your GP for an antibiotic course/cream to use. 


  • If you are overweight - try to reduce your weight you can talk to your Pharmacist or GP for advice
  • Follow a balanced healthy diet with meat, plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Wash your whole body once a day with soap/cleanser and water.
  • Wash your hands several times daily or use antiseptic hand rubs. 
  • Don't share your flannel or towel with other family members.
  • Maintain a clean handkerchief and don't pick your nose!
  • Change your underclothes and night attire regularly.
  • Consider modifying leisure activities that cause sweating and friction from clothing, such as squash and jogging.
  • If you are iron deficient, a course of iron tablets may help reduce infection.
  • Vitamin C 1000mg  each day has also been shown to improve deficient neutrophil function. 

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