• Alternative Names

    Skin infection - staphylococcal; Infection - skin - staph; Staph skin infection; Carbunculosis


    Carbuncles usually must drain before they will heal. This most often occurs on its own in less than 2 weeks.

    Placing a warm moist cloth on the carbuncle helps it to drain, which speeds healing. Gently soak the area with a warm, moist cloth several times each day. Never squeeze a boil or attempt to cut it open at home because this can spread the infection and make it worse.

    You need treatment if the carbuncle lasts longer than 2 weeks, returns frequently, is located on the spine or the middle of the face, or occurs along with a fever or other symptoms. Treatment helps reduce complications related to an infection.

    Your doctor may prescribe:

    • Antibacterial soaps
    • Antibiotics applied to the skin or taken by mouth

    Deep or large lesions may need to be drained by a health care provider.

    Proper hygiene is very important to prevent the spread of infection. Always wash your hands very well after touching a carbuncle. Do not re-use or share washcloths or towels -- this can cause the infection to spread. Clothing, washcloths, towels, and sheets or other items that contact infected areas should be washed in very hot (preferably boiling) water. Bandages should be changed frequently and thrown away in a bag that can be tightly closed.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Carbunculus may heal on their own. Others usually respond well to treatment. However, a carbuncle can return again and again for months or years following the first infection.

    • Abscess of the brain, skin, spinal cord, or organs such as the kidneys
    • Endocarditis
    • Osteomyelitis
    • Permanent scarring of the skin
    • Sepsis
    • Spread of infection to other areas

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • A carbuncles does not heal with home treatment within 2 weeks
    • Carbuncles come back often
    • A carbuncle is located on the face or spine
    • You have a fever, red streaks running from the sore, a lot of swelling around the carbuncle, or pain that gets worse