An abscess is a collection of pus that can form anywhere within the body. They may appear anywhere in the body, and are caused by the pooling of the pus formed when our immune system fights off infections from bacteria. When they occur on the skin, they are known as boils, furuncles or carbuncles. They can be caused by a weakened immune system: when the body is unable to fight off infections on its own, the pus gathers into an abscess, which causes pain. They are not a purely aesthetic problem, if left untreated, these abscesses may seed to other parts of the body and cause systemic shock. For minor abscesses, here are some home remedies you can try before going to a doctor.
- Avoid getting abscesses in the first place. The best cure is always prevention. That being said, you must always make sure to maintain proper standards of hygiene to prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing your skin. If you suffer any wounds or breaks in the skin, always make sure you clean it with soap and water. Keep cleaning even after scab formation, because you want to wash away the bacteria. Avoid using alcohol – this is not only painful, it also may harm the natural process of healing. If you suffer wounds, wash it out with clean water and soap. Use povidone-iodine (Betadine) or hydrogen peroxide to clean your wounds and apply fresh dressing daily.
- Maintain a strong immune system. Abscesses form because your body’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight it off. Make sure your body’s immunity is operating at a peak by living a clean and healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, proper diet and eating habits, and a positive mental and emotional outlook are important to keeping your immune system in tiptop shape. Never underestimate the power of your body to care for itself. If you want, you can even complement these efforts with vitamins, but nothing beats a healthy lifestyle.
- Use heat to bring the abscess to a head. You want to “ripen” your abscess before you lance it. Place warm compress on top of your abscess to heat it: this will not only make the environment unfavorable for bacterial growth, it will also promote circulation to the area. Do this at least three times day, and each time, you should apply gentle pressure for at least 20 minutes.
- Use sulfur soap to clean the abscess. The cleaning powers of sulfur may help your body fight the infection on its own. Wash the abscess with sulfur soap at least three times a day until it decreases in size. You can try to pop the abscess on your own, but make sure you clean up afterward with povidone-iodine solutions or hydrogen peroxide: this is to prevent re-infection with the same bacteria.
Remember, nothing beats the care of a properly trained medical professional. If you ignore problems like these, they will grow and may eventually become too difficult to handle, even in a hospital. One of the steps to treating the abscess is lancing to get the pus out: this may seem like a painful step, but is a necessary one.