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What Are the Common Causes of Pus in the Armpit?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pus in the armpit is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria can enter the body from broken skin related to shaving or other means of hair removal. To minimize the risk of broken skin in the armpit area, using an electric razor instead of a bladed razor is often recommended. Using chemical depilatory products can also cause breaks in the skin because of the irritation that they cause. Boils and carbuncles can also cause an infection and pus.

A boil or cyst accompanied by pus in the armpit should never be squeezed, lanced, or handled excessively. Disturbing the lump can aggravate the infection and even cause it to spread. Other symptoms of an infection in the armpit include pain, swelling, and redness. The color of pus can vary from white to yellow or green, and blood may also be present, although it typically causes the pus to turn pink instead of bright red. When an armpit infection occurs, a health care provider needs to be consulted for evaluation and treatment recommendations.

Sometimes, the health care professional may decide to lance the boil to release the pus. This should only be done in a medical setting and should never be attempted in the home. After the boil or cyst is lanced, a topical antibiotic ointment is usually applied and then covered with a sterile dressing. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat the infection and reduce the risk of a secondary infection.

If the wound has been lanced, products such as antiperspirants, deodorants, powders, or depilatories should be avoided to reduce the risk of further irritation. Sometimes, an armpit infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the blood stream. Symptoms of a blood infection include fever, chills, body aches, and headache. In addition, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness can occur.

An infection that causes pus in the armpit is referred to as a purulent infection and typically responds to antibiotic therapy. The entire antibiotic prescription needs to be finished to make sure the infection goes away. Sometimes, however, antibiotics can cause such severe side effects, like stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea, that they cause the patient to stop taking them. If these side effects occur, the health care provider can treat the side effects or prescribe a different antibiotic less likely to cause problems.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Dec 21, 2012

Can viral infections cause pus in the armpit?

By ZipLine — On Dec 20, 2012

@SarahGen-- That happens to me sometimes too and I usually end up popping it with a sterile needle to drain the pus and removing the ingrown hair with a tweezer. Then I clean the area wit alcohol and apply antibacterial cream on it.

You probably shouldn't do this though because if you aggravate the infection, you will be worse off. It's better to see a doctor about it.

By SarahGen — On Dec 19, 2012

Sometimes I get an ingrown hair on my armpit and it gets infected and develops pus.

Is this normal?

How can I prevent and treat this problem?

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