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How Do I Drain Pus from an Abscess?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Draining pus from an abscess should be done by a health care provider in a sterile environment. If done improperly at home, the infection could worsen or spread to other parts of the body. When draining pus from an abscess, the health care provider generally uses a disposable needle to aspirate or draw out the pus, filling the barrel of the needle. Prior to the procedure, the abscessed area is cleansed to eliminate bacteria, and after the procedure, the area is generally covered with an antibiotic ointment and covered with a sterile dressing. Sometimes, an oral antibiotic is given to make sure the infection clears.

A pus-filled abscess is caused by a bacterial infection, and if not treated, can cause a severe blood infection. Symptoms of an abscess can include pain, inflammation, and redness. The pus can be white, green, or yellow, but red or pink pus might also be noticed. This happens when blood gets mixed with the pus, however, it is not an indicator of how serious the infection is. Rarely, red streaks appear in the area of the abscess, which can indicate blood poisoning. This symptom is considered a medical emergency, because if not treated, kidney failure or cardiovascular problems can occur.

Sometimes, the pus starts to drain on its own. When this occurs, the area needs to be washed with warm water and mild soap. After the area has been cleansed, antibiotic ointment should be applied, followed by the application of a sterile bandage. Small abscesses usually heal without complications, but they are sometimes very resistant to healing.

A small boil can quickly turn in to a large, pus-filled abscess if not kept clean and free from bacteria. This is especially troublesome when it occurs on the face, however, treatments are available. The health care provider can recommended oral antibiotics or prescription acne medication to help reduce symptoms. An abscess on the face should never be drained because doing so might lead to scarring.

Pus from an abscess around a tooth usually drains slowly into the mouth, and can cause throbbing pain and even a sore throat, as the infection spreads. The dentist will evaluate the abscess to determine how the infection should be treated and if the tooth will need to come out. Commonly, oral antibiotics are prescribed for a tooth abscess to prevent the infection from reaching the sinuses or tonsils.

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Discussion Comments
By anon970103 — On Sep 15, 2014

I have an abscess on my backside. I feel the lump of pus and want to squeeze it so bad. The pus will not break through and I'm debating if I just want to take a syringe and poke the abscess -- not too deep, just a little bit. Then I'd push the pus out. Will that work?

By anon339393 — On Jun 22, 2013

I had my wisdom teeth extracted about a month and a half ago. I ended up getting an infection the infection went away after about two weeks. A month later, I started developing a lump on my right cheek. I went to my dentist and he just called it an inflammation and said it was not an infection. Yet that same day he prescribed me an antibiotic and a steroid. On the box, it said do not take with infection.

Naturally, the lump did not go away. I called him and he acted like it was nothing and said to just wait for it to go away. I thought that was not right and it had been a long time since the extraction. I made an appointment with an oral surgeon and he said I had an abscess and needed to go into surgery to get it drained. That was yesterday, but I almost feel like the lump is bigger and harder? Is that supposed to happen? And if so, how long until it goes away?

By anon330037 — On Apr 13, 2013

Well I must say most of you are fortunate to have doctors that believe in patient comfort. Unfortunately, I had an I and D done by a PA (military), which involved me having to wait a week and a half before getting seen, so my abscess was very large by then.

I went in, got a few shots of lidocaine and an incision with a scalpel which I felt pretty much all of, blunt dissection, culturing, irrigation and packing. I had about 70 CCs drained, and I don't know if I've ever sworn so many times within a matter of 45 minutes of my life.

As for post care, I'm taking Septra twice daily, I'm to be seen every day for one week to have packing removed, blunt dissection (to break any pockets up) irrigation with 30 CCs of sterile water, and repacking. Though my old PA wanted me to get some form of pain management, my new one refused to do so, so I'm stuck with Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen.

I just figured I'd share how ridiculous this experience can be, however if you have a doctor who gets paid to do his job and care for the patient instead of one who just does it because someone will yell at him if he doesn't, then I doubt you'll have this problem.

By anon310473 — On Dec 23, 2012

I have an abscess right now that is about an inch and a half in diameter, and filled with green pus. I've tried sticking a needle in it, but it doesn't work. My mother wants to pop it herself, but it is way too painful for her to do it. I really want the doctor to do it, but she won't take me.

By irha — On Dec 01, 2012

What if it is already draining? If we wait it out, will it fully drain, or is it still important to get it drained professionally as soon as possible? The injury itself was a really small burn (about 5mm), that happened when the edge of a hot vessel touched the skin, and subsequently part of the skin got accidentally rubbed off.

By anon291759 — On Sep 16, 2012

I took a bunch of garlic (you can get the pills at any CVS) for a few days and it drained on its own with no pain. Garlic is a natural antibiotic. Then after the drain, I put garlic in that spot because it did not drain through the tooth. This was to prevent more infection and pack it with gauze. I visited the dentist the next day and he said I did the right thing. He wrote me a Rx for antibiotics and told me to come back.

I don't recommend at home treatment but this should help. My friend told me that back in the 1800s people would gargle whiskey. I didn't try that one.

By bluespirit — On Nov 05, 2011

I would get an abscess drained as soon as possible, as the longer you wait, the worse the bacterial infection can get. It can eventually become life-threatening!

By snickerish — On Nov 04, 2011

This question kind of tricks a person into thinking there is an at-home solution to draining pus out of an abscess, when really it is always best to see a health-care professional. If anything looks suspicious, and is in a suspicious place, it is best to get it checked out by a professional.

I say this from personal experience, as I have had staph infection twice before. Luckily, I did not pick at my staph the first time, as I thought it was a spider bite. The doctor said it was very good that I did try to drain/pop the pus out of the abscess myself, for I could have made the infection a lot worse than it already was.

The two times I had to get my staph infected abscess drained, it really was a quite simple procedure that was mostly painless, more scary looking than it actually looked. If you are squeamish, I would recommend looking away when they drain the pus, because it is pretty gross looking. I would get an abscess drained as soon as possible, as the longer you wait, the worse

By indemnifyme — On Nov 04, 2011

I actually had an abscess drained by a doctor not too long ago. I have to say, the process was a little bit gross, but fairly painless. As the article said, they simply insert a needle into the abscess and draw the pus out. My doctor was kind enough to give me a bit of local anesthetic first, so I didn't feel a thing!

By Monika — On Nov 03, 2011

@strawCake - Wow! That was brave of your friend. But I agree, self-treating probably isn't the best idea for an abscess.

I personally have a hard time not picking at anything that is filled with pus. However, a staph infection broke me of that habit years ago. I thought I just had acne on my legs or something, so I tried to pop the puss-filled boils on my own.

Needless to say, it did not work out well for me. I ended up having a pretty bad infection since I picked at it and waited awhile before I went to the doctor. Now, if I see any kind of suspicious abscess, I head straight to the doctor.

By strawCake — On Nov 03, 2011

I have a friend who treated a dental abscess on her own. She cut it open, drained it, and then doused it with hydrogen peroxide. Afterwards, she took some antibiotic herbs in case of infection.

In her case, it worked out fine. However, I don't think I would recommend this kind of thing to anyone who has access to a doctor (my friend didn't have any insurance or money at the time she had her dental abscess.) Even though it worked out all right for my friend, I think that there is too much that could go wrong with something like this to just treat it yourself.

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