People of any age and gender can be afflicted by the occasional abscess.
These painful, unsightly blemishes can appear out of nowhere and cause discomfort until they disappear.
Some people are forced to pick them to make them go away, but this method is neither comfortable nor the healthiest way to address this problem.
What is an abscess?
Abscesses (also commonly known as boils) are red bumps that are painful to the touch and often have a similar appearance to facial acne. The abscess is often filled with a white, pus-like substance, furthering the comparison to acne.
While abscesses can appear anywhere on the body, they most frequently appear near the base of the spine or groin area, or at hair follicles in the armpits or pubic area.
Some abscesses may swell to a point that causes a white head at the skin’s surface. Without care, many can get worse – the infection could even spread to the bloodstream or deeper tissue, leading to further illness or symptoms.
Abscesses can also occur in the mouth and gums. These boils, typically referred to as dental abscesses, are usually the result of a bacterial infection. The buildup of plaque and bacteria from a lack of proper dental hygiene increases your risk of incurring a dental abscess.
How do abscesses occur?
Abscesses result from a blockage of sweat glands and hair follicles or from minor breakages in the skin. These blockages can be caused by germs that have made their way under the skin or from inflammation of the hair follicles.
Some people have medical conditions that predispose them to a higher risk of getting abscesses. Poor hygiene and general poor health can also be contributing factors.
When bacteria get trapped under the skin, your body’s white blood cells flood the area to fight off the infection, generating a white pus substance. Your body then “walls off” this substance, along with dead skin cells and the offending bacteria, and traps them in one location.
This is the source of the swelling and tenderness associated with these painful little bumps.
What happens if I pop an abscess?
Antibiotics can be used to clear an infection from an abscess.
In some cases, however, the boil will need to be drained so that it can heal properly.
If abscesses are allowed to continue to grow unchecked then the continuous buildup of pus can cause them to become intensely painful.
Even so, no matter how painful the area becomes, you should never pop an abscesson your own. Popping the boil will relieve your physical discomfort – at least temporarily – but doing so could actually push the infection into your deeper tissue and lead to a more serious medical issue.
You could also run the risk of allowing the bacteria from your hands to get mixed into the existing infection, which could make any resultant medical issues worse.
When should I see a doctor to drain my abscess?
Some abscesses can be treated with natural home remedies. However, if symptoms persist, or if the abscess continues to get worse, your condition may require medical attention.
You should make an appointment with a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Your boil grows to half an inch (or greater) across
- The abscess continues to become more painful or tender to the touch
- The boil is located in a particularly sensitive area, such as your rectum
- Your symptoms include a persistent fever
- The abscess is accompanied by a red streak or skin discoloration leading to the area
These may be symptoms of a greater medical issue, and the abscess likely requires immediate attention and drainage from a medical professional.
Why should I try a home remedy?
Abscesses can often be treated by antibiotics before they become severe enough to warrant surgical drainage.
However, visiting a doctor to get an antibiotic prescription can be expensive and time-consuming.
Additionally, the antibiotics may not effectively clear up your abscess, in which case drainage can become a more necessary option to allow the pus to drain so that the infected area can heal properly.
The cutting and draining of boils is a fairly standard medical procedure but does run the risk of scarring.
The draining procedure may not completely clear out the abscess, and in such cases, a second procedure is required to fully remove the pus and dead skin cells from the area. The incision point can also become infected, particularly in instances where the infection is not successfully removed.
Finally, waiting too long to treat or drain an abscess can lead to a more serious infection with its own medical risks.
Employing a home remedy at the onset of an abscess has several benefits.
First, doing so could effectively treat your condition so that further medical attention is not required.
Second, even if the home remedy does not clear up your abscess, it could reduce the severity of the infection and decrease its potential to spread. This could, in turn, improve the odds that the boil can be treated with antibiotics without resorting to draining the pus.
Before resorting to more drastic measures to treat a recent onset of an abscess, try one of these natural solutions:
1. Make a raw potato poultice
Though dieters decry these starchy and carby vegetables, potatoes are well-known for carrying a host of nutritional benefits; they are loaded with potassium, Vitamin C, and other healthy compounds.
In addition to their nutritional value, potatoes are also utilized in home remedies for a variety of ailments and infections.
Raw potatoes have been used to expedite the healing process for generations. Some of these remedies have been passed down by word of mouth, while others have earned the backing of the scientific community. In most home remedies, potatoes are juiced and consumed to alleviate symptoms of digestive discomfort or arthritis.
However, the best way to use them to treat an abscess is through a topical application.
Applying a poultice of raw potatoes directly to the affected area helps to draw out the toxins causing or contributing to the infection. Warming the poultice (without cooking the potatoes) can increase blood flow to the area, and cooling it can provide relief from the pain that results from the swelling.
- Skin and grate a raw potato.
- Spread the potato onto a clean, breathable cloth and apply the mush directly to the affected area.
- Hold the poultice in place with either saran wrap or an airtight medical wrap, and leave intact for several hours (or overnight).
A new poultice can be applied afterward if the infection persists.
- After removing the potato mush, cleanse the area with warm salt water twice daily and cover with a clean bandage in between washes until the abscess is healed.
2. Apply a turmeric paste to the abscess
Turmeric is an incredibly versatile healing agent, as is the essential oil gathered from the root of the turmeric plant.
It carries well-known antiseptic and antibacterial properties, boosts the immune system, aids in efficient digestive processes, and can even improve cardiovascular health by combating high blood pressure and boosting red blood cell production.
Many of these properties can be harnessed specifically to decrease the appearance of an infection from skin abscesses.
Its antibacterial and detoxifying properties allow turmeric to combat the infection, while its ability to increase circulation helps to bring healthy white blood cells to the area to fight off the infection from within. Turmeric also carries anti-inflammatory properties can help to relieve discomfort from the swelling surrounding the abscess.
Turmeric’s positive properties can be harnessed by either grinding the root into a finely ground powder (which is also commonly used as a spice in cuisines throughout the world) or through topical, internal, and aromatic applications of its essential oil.
- Add 2 drops of turmeric essential oil to a glass of warm water, tea, or milk.
- Drink 2-3 times each day for optimal results.
Alternatively, to use in a topical treatment for abscesses, mix freshly ground turmeric and ginger with a small quantity of milk to make a thick paste and apply directly to the boil.
3. Apply a cornmeal paste
Cornmeal is a natural and effective absorbent.
A thick cornmeal paste can draw out the pus from the abscess, which dries it out and allows it to heal naturally. This home remedy is also an effective way to reduce discomfort and tenderness, and may also draw out any accompanying infection.
This home remedy requires a more hands-on approach, as the paste must be replaced periodically as it dries out.
However, a homemade cornmeal paste can reduce even severe boils in as little as a day!
- Boil half a cup of water.
- Slowly whisk in dried cornmeal until the mixture forms a thick, warm paste.
- Apply the paste directly to the abscess and cover with a warm, clean cloth.
- Re-apply the cornmeal paste periodically (every 2-3 hours) until the pus has completely drained from the abscess.
4. Make an essential oil compress using chamomile, lavender, and tea tree oils
Essential oils can be used as health supplements, primers for many of the body’s systems, metabolism boosters, supporters of positive mental health, and general tonics to aid many bodily functions.
Each essential oil is fairly diverse in the numerous ways that they can be applied; however, when used in combination with other oils, those effects can be compounded to produce powerful effects.
Chamomile essential oil can be used topically to promote exogenous removal of toxins from the body and produce a calm, cooling sensation.
Lavender oil both inhibits the growth of bacteria within the abscess and encourages increased blood circulation to the area, which brings a fresh supply of white blood cells in to aid in fighting the infection.
Tea tree essential oil – also known as melaleuca oil – is used to treat a wide variety of topical infections and also promotes the expedient healing of topical wounds.
In combination, these three essential oils can work together to rapidly reduce both the appearance of an abscess and the underlying infection that may have caused it.
- Combine ½ cup of hot water, 4 drops of tea tree oil, 3 drops of lavender essential oil, and 3 drops of chamomile oil in a small bowl.
- Stir well to be sure that the three essential oils are well blended.
- Submerge a clean cloth in the liquid until the cloth is saturated (but not dripping).
- Apply the compress to the abscess every 2-3 hours until the abscess subsides.