How to treat boils and styes

Boils are pus-filled skin infections that occur around a hair follicle or oil gland. This causes a red, painful lump to form as pus collects under the skin. A boil that occurs on the eyelid is called a stye.

To treat a boil or stye at home, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Make a warm compress: Applying heat in the form of a warm compress is the best way to treat boils and styes yourself. To make a warm compress, soak a clean washcloth in hot water. Be careful not to use water that is too hot, especially on children.

  2. Apply the warm compress: Hold the compress to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this three to four times daily until the boil or stye releases pus and heals. Never squeeze or pierce a boil or stye yourself, as this can spread the infection.

  3. Consider taking ibuprofen: If your boil or stye is painful, consider taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce the pain. Make sure you read the directions on the packaging for the correct dose.

  4. Keep the area clean: Always keep the area clean, and avoid touching or rubbing the boil or stye. If you have a stye, avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses until the stye heals.

  5. Keep it covered: If your boil bursts, cover it with a sterile bandage or gauze to prevent infection while it heals.

Most boils and styes heal on their own within one to three weeks. However, if the pain or swelling worsens after several days, another boil or stye appears, or you develop a fever or vision problems with the infection, see a board-certified dermatologist.