How To Drain An Abscess

Hey, Preppers,

Abscesses, sometimes known as Boils or Furuncles, are areas where an infection has caused an accumulation of pus. Pus is the debris left over from your body’s attempt to eliminate an infection; it consists of white and red blood cells, live and dead bacteria, and inflammatory fluid.  The most common bacterial culprits are Staphylococcus Aureus and Staphylococcus Pyogenes.  These organisms are thought to occur naturally on the skin of ¼ of the general population.

What Causes Boils?

The tendency to boils may be related to issues with hygiene or a foreign body lodged under the skin, but could just as easily be hereditary in nature.  I know a number of families in which multiple members suffer from this condition.  Other risk factors include Diabetes, chronic skin conditions, weakened immune systems (like those on dialysis), and intravenous drug use.  Those prone to abscesses may benefit by regularly cleansing with Chlorhexidine (Hibiclens) or other antibacterial soaps.

Abscesses may form anywhere that there is an infection.  They can be found in deep organs, such as an inflamed appendix, in the breasts of new mothers, or in areas of diseased gums and teeth.  The most common location, however, is just below the skin, most commonly in the armpits, groin, thighs, buttocks, and face (severe acne).  The average person has many glands and hair follicles that can become blocked and infected.  Although microscopic, these infected glands can give rise to abscesses the size of baseballs.  Once they reach a certain size, significant pain due to pressure and inflammation is likely.  This is especially true around the area of the buttocks.

The body’s immune response has a tendency to wall off infections.  This effort by your immune system to isolate the infection is praiseworthy, but the walls of the abscess make it difficult for antibiotics to penetrate inside and kill the remaining organisms.  In these cases, modern medical care must be accessed to eliminate the problem.  But what if the aftermath of a catastrophe leaves you without this option?  You might have to intervene by performing a procedure we call “Incision and Drainage”.

Boils and Their Treatment in Crisis Medicine

Before you resort to this sort of intervention, make every effort to use non-invasive techniques.  The most successful of these would be the application of moist warm compresses to the abscess.  This should be performed several times a day for at least 20 minutes each time.  Over time, the boil should “ripen” and come to a white or yellow “head”.  With any luck, it will then drain on its own. This can take a week in some circumstances, but the compresses should speed the process considerably.  Don’t forget to wash the area frequently with an antiseptic cleanser, such as Chlorhexidine (Hibiclens).  Some use Witch Hazel for this purpose.

If the abscess fails to blaze a trail to the surface by itself, you have reached the point where you must seek professional medical help.  If this no longer exists, you can still deal with the issue.  You will need:

  • Soap and Water
  • Towels (preferably sterile)
  • Antiseptic
  • Ice
  • A scalpel (#11 blade), needle, or knife blade (sterile)
  • Gauze
  • Gloves
  • Your choice of dressing tape
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment

First, wash your hands with soap and water and put on your gloves.  Place ice on the head of the abscess and wait a short time for some numbness to occur. Then, apply your antiseptic (Betadine, alcohol, etc) over the area to be incised or “lanced”.  Isolate the area with drapes or towels. If your scalpel or other instrument isn’t sterile, place it under a fire until it turns red.  Let it cool off. Have some gauze ready to catch the pus as it drains; it is filled with bacteria, and you don’t want to spread the infection.  Dispose of the gauze immediately afterward.

Then, using the tip of your scalpel, pierce the skin over head of the abscess, where it is softest (this will hurt). The bigger the opening, the more easily the boil will drain. The pus should drain freely, and your patient will probably experience immediate relief.  Although some question its effectiveness, apply some triple antibiotic ointment to the skin surrounding the incision and cover with a clean bandage.  Clean the site and change the dressing frequently.

Alternative to antibiotic ointments include Lavender Oil, Tea Tree Oil or even raw unprocessed honey. If you have oral antibiotics available, begin a course of Clindamycin (300mg three times a day  x 7 days for adults – available in veterinary equivalents).  Clindamycin is acceptable for those allergic to Penicillin.

Very large boils, once incised and drained, are sometimes kept open so as to allow continuous drainage.  Often, a wick made of thin gauze with dilute Iodine solution  (“Iodoform”) is inserted to kept normal immune response from closing the abscess wall.  This insertion requires some practice, so reserve this technique only for the worst cases.

Dr. Bones

Share Button

32 Responses to “How To Drain An Abscess”

  1. William Keyes says:

    great info…

  2. Durak Ironhyde says:

    Is the treatment of a sebaceous cyst the same as dealing with an abscess? 

    • Dr. Bones says:

       Hi Durak,

      Yes, especially if the cyst becomes infected.  If not, the urgency in dealing with it is less and depends more on the level of discomfort experienced.

      Dr. Bones

      • ncbill says:

        I have a SC on my back for years.

        It has only become infected a couple of times – had it drained, dermatologist injected something to try and break down the internal ‘walls’.

        Deep enough he didn’t want to try and excise it to avoid damage to the surrounding tissue.

        • Dr. Bones says:

          Hi ncbill,

          If a sebaceous cyst is not infected and not huge, most doctors will take a wait and see attitude towards it, unless it is disfiguring.

          Dr. Bones

  3. Kris says:

    Crushed Garlic works well for skin infections also, I have had MRSA abscesses multiple times and am now able to treat them if I get to it early enough by just putting a crushed garlic clove on and open abscess.

    • Dr. Bones says:

       Hi Kris,

      Assuming that you thoroughly cleaned the clove of garlic beforehand, you’re absolutely right.   Garlic has proven antibacterial properties.

      Dr. Bones

  4. David Decker says:

    This is awesome stuff!! I have been dealing with these for a long time. About a year after my wife and I got married she started getting them and our oldest daughter has had a couple. I always just let them run their course and deal with the pain. But sometimes has lasted over a month and my wife doesn’t have that kind of tolerance. She went to the ER and had hers lanced and this is exactly what they did (i volunteered to do it but she wouldn’t let me). The only thing I found to really work good on them is a drawout salve. What are your thoughts on this? Its not the quickest but has worked for me.

    • Setanta54 says:

      i was going to post about salves and even crushed garlic/lemon as that draws things out as well–i wouldn’t play with them by lancing either–they will open and drain with a little coaxing and those prone to them should really investigate their diet and see if eliminating the usual suspects,drinking more water clears things up-

    • Dr. Bones says:

       Hi David,

      Always start with the least invasive method.  I would use the salve with warm moist compresses and see what happens…

      Dr. Bones

  5. ABrady says:

    Very nice! I just wanted to add that I learned you can go with the “wick” procedure with honey on it as well!

    • Dr. Bones says:

       Hi Brady,

      Honey has known antibacterial properties, make sure you go with raw unprocessed if you do this.

      Dr. Bones

  6. tony says:

    LOL followed link from Quayles site thought the story was about Congress or a higher office.

  7. Janet Arrigo says:

    Kudos Dr. Bones:

    Your advice is helping more people than you could possibly know.

    Be aware and be prepared!

    Right on Dr. Bones – WRITE ON!

    Respectfully,  Yoda@magnifiedview.com
    @magnifiedview:disqus 
    http://www.magnifiedview.com/2010/09/17/yodas-little-known-tactics-to-avoid-being-a-target/

  8. Dietoyesterday says:

    Another wonderful means of “ripening” the boil is very thin slices of raw potato. Slice a cleaned potato into very thin slices (I even grate it sometimes), layer on top of the abscess then cover with plastic. It works magic. Also great for blocked milk ducts of breastfeeding women :) Draws everything right out.

  9. Glassman says:

    Another topical antibacterial/antiviral ‘ointment’ is unprocessed coconut oil.  

  10. Technicalsoldier says:

    Hi

    Hi Doctor

     

    I want to add my recent experience.

    7-01-2012 Sebaceous Cysts on neck infected while cutting firewood,
    etc. (dirty hands?)

    7-05-2012 Go to VA doctor. 
    He gives me two types of antibiotics for cellulitis (infection)

    7-06-2012 Go to traditional Chinese medicine doctor; no
    relief, things getting worse

    7-07-2012 Go to urgent care doctor, now have abscess, massive
    infection setting, cut and drain

    7-08-2012 Go back to urgent care, infection still there, but
    little change

    7-09-2012 Go to hospital ER, still infected, they lance and
    put in wicks

    7-10-2012 Go to hospital ER as directed again, still
    infected, they change bandage and wicks        

    7-11-2012 Told to come back today for exam, may be admitted
    to hospital this time.

     

    As you can see things are getting out of hand in a
    hurry.  Looks like I might need to have
    this operated on in a big way now; no half steps this time around.  I never thought this would get this bad.  I’m still on the antibiotics and now pain
    pills because they are cutting deeper and deeper into my neck over the previous
    cuts.  This hurts to say the least as
    they have to press out the infection again and again.  Thanks for the information.  I wish I had your information before all this
    happened.

     

    Technical Soldier

     

    • Dr. Bones says:

       Hi Tech,

      I have emailed you privately to discuss your situation further.  I’m truly sorry for what you’re going through.

      Dr. Bones

  11. Lindasemler says:

    I suffered from boils for a few years and the most effective treatment I found was the use of SLIPPERY ELM.  It was contained in Throat Coat Tea by Heavenly Celestials.  Slippery Elm draws out the boil and opens it up, no lancing needed.  I would place the wet, warm tea bag on the boil and within twenty minutes it would open and drain.
    Thank you for your web site.

  12. Mlair11 says:

    Awesome information.  Thank you.  There is another way to lance a boil that I’d like to share.  Make a paste of castor oil and baking soda.  Apply it liberally to the boil and cover it with a bandaid.  It will ‘lance’ it and drain it.  Repeat the process everyday until it has drained.  I’ve done it myself and it works really well. 

  13. Kingjamesbbq says:

    Hi 
     I love your site and all of the great information you have.

    I was wondering about the hot cup method. You lance the boil and then place a warm cup over the boil and as the cup cools it draws out the puss. I have seen this done several times with no ill effects.

    Will this work in a shtf scenario?

    • Dr Bones says:

      The suction effect of the warm cup will help draw out the pus and would be an acceptable method if the pus does not drain naturally.
      There is a chance of burning the skin if the rim of the cup is too hot, however, and you may occasionally see a bruise from the suction.
      Thanks for the kind words and support!

      all the best, Dr. Bones

  14. […] an antibiotic ointment all over the world. It was used long before we had all this chemical crap. How To Drain An Abscess | Doom and Bloom (TM) and read this here on honey Honey as an Antibiotic Ointment: Sweet Treatment for […]

  15. Soni says:

    Hi Doc

    I have an abscess on my face.
    Monday was 1cm x 1cm
    A&E doctor have me antibiotics pencillin
    I am taking for 7 days.
    Wednesday I saw my GP
    From reading on the Internet this antibiotics doesn’t work that well.
    I am worried they will have to cut open my face.
    I also have pilonidal sinus and have to have operation. This is continually leaking and am tired of putting ban adage on this as every time I shower becomes wet so I don’t bother no more.

    Warm moist compress method
    How do I do ? Just use a flannel dipped in hot / warm water
    Do I have to wash the flannel each compress ?
    Please I urgently need your advice
    Thanks very much
    Soni

    • Dr Bones says:

      Hi Soni,

      Make sure you wash out the flannel each time, it would even be better to use something like gauze that you can dispose of each time. Have you doctor take a “culture” of the drainage and send it to the lab, as it will identify the bacteria and the specific antibiotics that will kill it. These issues plague many people and are real trouble if they are allowed to fester.

      all the best,

      Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>