If the infection is deep, your doctor may fill the drained pocket with sterile gauze. The gauze can keep the incision open, allowing pus to continue to drain.
Now and then a boil or a carbuncle leads to a spreading skin infection called cellulitis. If you see the skin around a boil or carbuncle begin to get red and tender, and that red area starts growing, contact your doctor. Cellulitis usually requires antibiotic treatment.
If you have an area of skin that is prone to boils or carbuncles:
Keep the area clean and dry.
Avoid wearing tight clothing.
Wash daily with antibacterial soap.
Use warm compresses at the earliest sign of irritation.
Avoid shaving in that area.
Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.