What is a skin abscess?
A skin abscess is an infection with pus under the skin, sometimes called a "boil." A common cause is the germ "staph" (see other side). It is caused when bacteria (germs) get under the skin and cause an infection. The pus forms as the body fights the infection.
How can the abscess be cured?
The pus must drain for the infection to heal. You may use warm compresses to "ripen" the abscess, but DO NOT try to pop or puncture the abscess yourself. If your abscess is not draining on its own, your doctor may help the pus to drain through a small incision. Sometimes cotton gauze is also packed inside the abscess cavity to draw out the pus.
Important advice for patients:
- Avoid touching the abscess with bare hands.
- Keep the abscess covered with a clean, dry dressing. If the dressing becomes wet with pus, it should be carefully changed and thrown away in a plastic bag. Pus is very contagious.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact-sports and gym class until the wound is completely healed.
- Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with other people to keep the infection from spreading.
Georgia Division of Public Health