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What Are the Common Causes of Red Pus?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Red pus is the result of pus combined with blood. It is often referred to as blood-tinged pus and the color can range from light pink to deep red. Pus can also appear green when neutrophils secrete a substance known as myeloperoxidase. Pus can also be brown, yellow, white, or rarely, blue. A bacterial infection known as pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause blue pus and is the result of an immune response.

It is common for an infected wound to contain red pus. Tooth abscesses sometimes produce blood-tinged pus and can be treated with antibiotics or sometimes, tooth extraction. Even minor injuries, such as ingrown toenails, can produce red pus because chronic friction with a shoe can cause the tissue to bleed and mix with pus. Regardless of whether the wound contains red pus or pus of another color, a health care provider needs to be notified to determine the cause of the infection and to prescribe antibiotics.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that work to attack bacterial organisms. When neutrophils work with other types of white blood cells and their components, an immune response is triggered, often resulting in the formation of pus. Pimples, abscesses and boils occasionally contain pus, and in addition, they are often painful, inflamed and red. An individual should never attempt to squeeze pus out of a pimple or boil because doing so can cause scarring and the spread of infection to other parts of the body.

When red pus accompanies a wound, antibiotics should be started, either orally, topically, or both. Most of the time, a healthy immune system will clear a purulent infection without any treatment. Sometimes, however, an untreated bacterial infection can cause serious complications such as kidney or heart failure. Occasionally, the health care provider will lance the infected area to remove the pus, and because this is typically done under sterile conditions, the risk of further infection is low.

Pus formation can also affect the internal organs, in the form of abscesses that can sometimes form on the liver. When this occurs, the patient can become very sick and experience weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark-colored urine, and fever. When pus forms inside the internal organs, hospitalization is recommended so that intravenous antibiotic therapy can be started. If antibiotic therapy is not instituted promptly, the patient may become septic, which can cause a massive blood infection and prove life threatening

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001548 — On May 09, 2019

As if anyone's going to stop popping abscesses - what absurd advice. Pus always needs draining, and if you are careful, you'll have no problems doing it yourself. The biggest mistake people make is not cutting into the abscess adequately, then squeezing too hard. This is bad and risks spreading the infection. But with a decent, deep slice in sterile conditions, people can resolve their own puss issues without a trip to the doctor.

By bluedolphin — On Aug 19, 2013

The only time I've had red pus was when my tongue piercing was infected. I had a huge boil on my tongue that was full of red pus. My doctor had to drain it and then she put me on ten days worth of antibiotics to treat the infection. It was not fun.

By ZipLine — On Aug 19, 2013

@ysmina-- You need to stop doing that! When you squeeze a pimple that leads to red pus, not only are you spreading bacteria, but you're also rupturing tiny blood vessels. That's why the pus is red, because your vessel is damaged.

If you leave your pimples alone and just keep it clean, your body will drain and treat them on its own. You don't need to do anything.

By ysmina — On Aug 18, 2013

I always have pimples with red pus. I know I shouldn't be squeezing them, but I do. The first type of pus that comes out is clear and then its red because it starts to bleed. I wash it with soap and water afterward and then apply an antibiotic cream. It heals just fine this way.

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