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What is the Best Treatment for an Underarm Boil?

A.E. Freeman
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An underarm boil, also called a furuncle, forms when bacteria infects a hair follicle. Staphylococcus aureus, which live on the skin, usually cause the infection, though another type of bacteria may be to blame as well. A boil may not need any treatment and may clear up on its own, though most fill with pus, which can be painful and requires treatment.

You can place a warm compress, such as a washcloth dampened with hot water, onto the boil. The warmth of the compress will encourage the boil to burst and the pus to drain, which causes it to heal. You should apply the compress several times a day until the pus drains.

Always wash the compress after using it and do not reuse until it has been cleaned. Wash your hands and the affected area thoroughly, especially after the boil begins to drain. Although popping the underarm boil like a pimple may be tempting, you should avoid doing so, as the pus from the blister can spread onto your skin, leading to more boils.

If the underarm boil is very large or does not clear up after several weeks, you may need to see a doctor to treat it. The doctor will make a small cut into the base of the boil so that the pus will drain. If the boil is large enough, the doctor may have to pack it with gauze so that it can continue to drain into the gauze after you leave the doctor's office. You may need to change the gauze and should be very careful when doing so. Throw the gauze away so that the pus and bacteria from the boil are on the inside. Wash your hands well afterward.

You may need a course of antibiotics for a large underarm boil or for a boil that recurs on other areas of the body. If MRSA, a resistant type of staph, is the cause of the boil, you will definitely need to take antibiotics. Even if the boil clears up or you feel better, take the entire course prescribed by your doctor.

Once the boil has fully drained and gone away, you can take steps to prevent a second boil from forming. Use the hottest water possible to wash your sheets and any clothing worn when you had the boil and your towels. Don't share items such as your razor with friends. If you cut your underarm when shaving, use an antibiotic cream to clean it and apply a bandage to protect it.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By anon338339 — On Jun 13, 2013

The best way to avoid these boils: stop shaving under your arms and use Veet or Nair. I used to get really painful ones in my armpits and since I quit shaving, I haven't had any for a couple of years.

By serenesurface — On Jul 21, 2012
My roommate has staph. She got it from her boyfriend who got it from the boy's locker room. She gets really terrible boils all over her. She has boils under her armpits and one on her leg now. She showed me the ones under her arm and I couldn't believe it. They had opened up and drained so it looked like there were holes under her arm.

She's taking lots of antibiotics now to try to get rid of the infection. This is actually her second course of antibiotics. She thought the staph infection went away after the first one but it returned after the antibiotics were over.

For this kind of underarm boil that's caused by bacteria, I guess there is no other treatment than antibiotics. And even those don't work too well sometimes.

By donasmrs — On Jul 21, 2012

@literally45-- Yea, keep doing hot compresses so that the follicle becomes unclogged and releases all the pus. When it has done that and after you've cleaned it with soapy water, you can apply diluted apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil on it to kill the bacteria and prevent it from coming back.

Both cider and tea tree oil are anti-bacterial and they are great home remedies for boils. But make sure to dilute them or the open boil will burn a lot! You can also do this when you don't have boils to prevent them.

I'm prone to underarm boils too, possibly because of bacteria from sweating. I treat mine with diluted vinegar and by keeping my armpits clean and dry at all other times.

By literally45 — On Jul 20, 2012

I woke up this morning and discovered a painful underarm boil that is large and red. I think it's in the process of developing pus and it hurts so much. I can barely move my arm because of the pain.

I didn't know about the hot compress, so I will definitely do that now to try to get it to ooze out pus and heal. But is there anything else I can do for the pain?

I've never experienced something like this before and I don't have any other boils on my body aside from this one under my left arm. I think it's a clogged hair follicle so I don't see a need to visit the doctor for it. Once this heals, is there anything I can do to prevent the boil from coming back?

Please share any boil treatments you know of that haven't been mentioned yet.

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
Learn more
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