An abscess (boil or furuncle) is an infected area that contains a collection of pus.


Signs and symptoms of an abscess include pain, tenderness, redness, or hardness. You may feel a moveable soft area under your skin. An abscess can occur anywhere in the body.


A surgical cut (incision) may be made over your abscess to drain the pus. Gauze may be packed into the space or a drain may be looped through the abscess cavity (pocket). This provides a drain that will allow the cavity to heal from the inside outwards. The abscess may be painful for a few days, but should feel much better if it was drained.

Your abscess, if seen early, may not have localized and may not have been drained. If not, another appointment may be required if it does not get better on its own or with medications.


  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Take your antibiotics as directed if they were prescribed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Keep the skin and clothes clean around your abscess.

  • If the abscess was drained, you will need to use gauze dressing to collect any draining pus. Dressings will typically need to be changed 3 or more times a day.

  • The infection may spread by skin contact with others. Avoid skin contact as much as possible.

  • Practice good hygiene. This includes regular hand washing, cover any draining skin lesions, and do not share personal care items.

  • If you participate in sports, do not share athletic equipment, towels, whirlpools, or personal care items. Shower after every practice or tournament.

  • If a draining area cannot be adequately covered:

  • Do not participate in sports.

  • Children should not participate in day care until the wound has healed or drainage stops.

  • If your caregiver has given you a follow-up appointment, it is very important to keep that appointment. Not keeping the appointment could result in a much worse infection, chronic or permanent injury, pain, and disability. If there is any problem keeping the appointment, you must call back to this facility for assistance.


  • You develop increased pain, swelling, redness, drainage, or bleeding in the wound site.

  • You develop signs of generalized infection including muscle aches, chills, fever, or a general ill feeling.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.