It may be tempting to squeeze or pop a painful lump on your skin, but experts advise against it. The bump could be a boil – a pus-filled skin infection that occurs around a hair follicle or oil gland – or a stye if the lump is on your eyelid. According to dermatologists, squeezing a boil or stye could make the infection worse.
“If you have a boil or stye, resist the temptation to squeeze it,” said board-certified dermatologist Nada Elbuluk, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology, NYU Langone Medical Center. “This will prevent the infection from spreading and help prevent or minimize scarring.”
To treat a boil or stye at home, Dr. Elbuluk recommends the following tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,” said Dr. Elbuluk. “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 your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist.”