An abscess is an inflamed and painful pus-filled lump caused by a bacterial infection. Abscesses (also known as boils) can occur anywhere on the body. Some small skin abscesses can heal on their own without treatment, but you'll need to use additional treatments to treat large or non-healing abscesses. You can get rid of an abscess by treating it yourself at home or going to the doctor to drain the fluid and get medicine.
Method 1 of 2: Treating an Abscess at Home
Step 1. Take care not to touch the abscess
Suppress your urge to touch, poke, or squeeze the abscess. This can spread the bacteria and make the inflammation and infection worse.
- Use a clean bandage or tissue to remove any pus or discharge from the abscess. Do not directly use the skin and fingers to wipe the liquid that comes out. Throw away the bandage immediately and don't use it again.
- Always wash your hands before and after you touch the abscess to prevent the infection from spreading. Dangerous infections, such as MRSA, can enter the body through an abscess.
Step 2. Apply a warm compress to the abscess
Wash your hands with soap and water. Heat a glass of water until it's warm, it tends to heat up, but doesn't scald the skin. Dip a clean, soft cloth or bandage in the water and apply it to the abscess and the surrounding skin. Warm or hot compresses can help drain the abscess and reduce pain and discomfort.
- Apply this compress several times a day.
- Gently wipe the abscess using a cloth in a circular motion. This can drain pus from inside the abscess. Do not be surprised if there is a little blood that comes out, this is normal.
Step 3. Soak the abscess in warm water
Put warm water in a bathtub or small container. Next, soak the body or abscess in the tub/container for 10 to 15 minutes. This soaking can allow the abscess to drain naturally and minimize pain and discomfort.
- Clean the tub or container thoroughly before and after you use it.
- Try adding baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal, or Epsom salt to the water. This can soothe the skin and help dry the abscess naturally.
Step 4. Clean the abscess and surrounding skin
Wash the abscess with a mild antibacterial soap and warm clean water. Also clean the skin around the abscess. Dry the skin by wiping it with a clean, soft towel.
- Wash the abscess with an antiseptic cleanser if you want to use a product that is stronger than soap.
- One part of cleaning an abscess is taking a shower or bath every day. Maintaining good personal hygiene can heal abscesses and minimize the risk of a more severe infection.
Step 5. Use a sterile bandage to cover the abscess
After the abscess is cleaned, apply a sterile gauze or bandage over it. To prevent infection, change the bandage if fluid comes out of the abscess and penetrates the bandage, or if the bandage is dirty or wet.
You can also apply manuka honey (honey from the manuka flower) on the abscess using a cotton bud, then cover it to prevent infection. Never dip used cotton buds in honey
Step 6. Take pain medication
Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Follow the dosage instructions carefully for relief of pain and discomfort. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also reduce swelling.
Step 7. Wash anything that came into contact with the abscess
Set the washing machine to a high water temperature. Put the clothes, linens, or washcloths used to compress the asbestos in the washing machine. Run the machine and dry all fabrics on a high heat setting. This can remove adhering bacteria, which may infect the abscess or make it swollen.
Step 8. Wear soft, loose clothing
Tight clothing can irritate the skin and make the abscess worse. Wear clothes that are soft, loose, and light so the skin can breathe well and heal quickly.
Soft-textured clothing such as cotton or wool from merino sheep can keep the skin from becoming irritated and can prevent excessive sweating that can irritate the area affected by the abscess
Method 2 of 2: Getting Medical Treatment
Step 1. Watch for signs of advanced infection
Continue to self-medicate as long as the abscess heals and there are no signs that the infection is getting worse. Look for the following signs that indicate that the abscess and infection are getting worse and should seek medical attention:
- The skin is getting redder and feels more painful.
- Red streaks appear from the abscess and the area around it toward the heart.
- The abscess and the skin around it feel very warm or hot to the touch.
- The abscess drains a lot of pus or other fluid.
- You have a fever over 38.6 °C.
- You have chills, nausea, vomiting, headache, or muscle aches.
Step 2. Go to the doctor
In certain cases, you may need medical treatment, for example if you are over 65 years of age. Tell the doctor the steps you have taken to treat the abscess at home and any information that can help the doctor treat it. Go to the doctor for medical treatment if:
- Abscesses are on the spine or face, and near the eyes or nose.
- The fluid in the abscess does not come out on its own.
- The abscess grows in size or is very large or is very painful.
- You have diabetes or another chronic health problem, such as kidney or liver disease.
Step 3. Let the doctor drain the abscess fluid
If necessary, allow the doctor to puncture and drain the fluid in the abscess using a scalpel or small needle. By opening and draining the fluid inside, the pus or infectious fluid can be removed. This will also reduce pressure on the abscess. Keep the abscess cover attached by the doctor clean and dry.
- Don't try to drain the abscess yourself at home, as this could spread the infection.
- Ask your doctor to give you a local anesthetic if you have unbearable pain.
- Perhaps the doctor will cover the drained abscess with an antiseptic bandage to absorb any remaining pus and prevent further infection.
- The doctor may also take a sample of the abscess fluid and test whether the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.
Step 4. Use oral or topical antibiotics
If the abscess infection is very severe, ask your doctor to prescribe antibiotics. Follow the dosage instructions given by your doctor and finish all the antibiotics prescribed. Using and finishing the entire course of antibiotics can clear the infection and minimize the risk of a new abscess or re-infection.