Abscess (Antibiotic Treatment Only)

An abscess happens when bacteria get trapped under the skin and start to grow. Pus forms inside the abscess as the body responds to the bacteria. An abscess can happen with an insect bite, ingrown hair, blocked oil gland, pimple, cyst, or puncture wound. It is sometimes call a boil.

In the early stages, your wound may be red and tender. For this stage, you may get antibiotics. If the abscess does not get better with antibiotics, it will need to be drained with a small cut.

Home care

These tips will help you care for your abscess at home:

  • Soak the wound in hot water or apply hot packs (small towel soaked in hot water) to the area for 20 minutes at a time. Do this 3 to 4 times a day, or as instructed. Use a new towel each time. Wash the towels afterward because they may be contaminated with bacteria after use.

  • Don't cut, squeeze, or pop the boil yourself.

  • Put antibiotic cream or ointment on the skin 3 to 4 times a day, unless something else was prescribed. Some ointments include an antibiotic plus a pain reliever.

  • If your healthcare provider prescribed antibiotics, don't stop taking them until you have finished the medicine or you are told to stop.

  • You may use an over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your provider before taking these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or digestive bleeding.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Check your wound each day for the signs that the infection may be getting worse (see below).

When to seek medical advice

Get prompt medical attention if any of these occur:

  • An increase in redness or swelling

  • Red streaks in the skin leading away from the abscess

  • An increase in local pain or swelling

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Pus or fluid coming from the abscess

  • Boil returns after getting better

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