Are Boils Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Treatment of Boils

The primary home remedy for most boils is heat application, usually with hot soaks or hot packs. It may be necessary to apply them 20 minutes at a time for three to four times daily. Heat application increases the circulation to the area and allows the body to better fight off the infection by bringing antibodies and white blood cells to the site of infection.

What is a boil?

A boil is a bacterial skin infection of a hair follicle. Boils contain pus. Boils are usually caused by staphylococcal bacteria. Boils are also known as furuncles.

Are boils contagious?

There is some controversy about boils being contagious. Some experts say the boils themselves are not contagious because they can occur from bacteria normally found on the skin. Others, however, say that boils are contagious because it is possible for person-to-person transfer of bacteria if a person's infected boils touch the skin of another person, who then may also develop boils.

What is the incubation period for boils?

Although the most common range of the incubation period for staphylococci is about four to 10 days, boils caused by these bacteria that are normally found on the skin are considered to have a variable incubation period.

How will I know if I have boils?

A boil begins when the skin turns red and tender in the area of the infection. After about four to seven days, the tender lump often starts to turn the skin whitish as pus collects under the skin. Some boils may spontaneously burst and leak out pus. Others may expand to form an abscess.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/21/2016

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