When You Should See a Doctor

It is often possible and permissible to treat a single, small boil yourself. However, there are certain situations in which you should make sure to see a doctor if you haven't already. You should see a doctor if:

  • You have a boil that is extremely painful
  • You have a boil that worsens rapidly or grows to be very large
  • Redness develops around your boil
  • You have red streaks or lines radiating from your boil - this could be a sign of the infection entering your bloodstream
  • Your develop fever and/or chills
  • Your boil doesn't heal in two weeks
  • You get recurrent or frequent boils
  • You have diabetes
  • You have a condition that suppresses your immune system like HIV or an organ transplant
  • You are taking antibiotics or cortisone medication
  • A boil occurs on your face or spine

Children and older adults who develop one or more boils should receive medical attention.

It is important to seek medical attention in these situations because they could be signs of complications that are detrimental to your health. One possible complication associated with boils is when the infection spreads to your blood. Spread of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that causes boils to your bloodstream is a serious condition known as blood poisoning. You could have blood poisoning if you have symptoms such as chills, a spiking fever, a rapid heart rate or a feeling of being extremely ill. This condition can progress quickly to shock. Shock is marked by falling blood pressure, decreasing body temperature, confusion, clotting abnormalities, and bleeding into the skin. Blood poisoning is a medical emergency and if left untreated, it can be fatal.