Attention CHOP clinicians: patient education should be printed and assigned via EPIC's Teaching Library.
Health Encyclopedia
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings

Skin Abscess: How to Care for Your Child

A skin abscess is a collection of pus under the skin. Sometimes an abscess drains on its own. Other times, the health care provider drains the pus and may put gauze in the wound afterward to help it keep draining. Kids with a skin abscess usually feel better soon after the pus drains. The wound may continue to drain on its own for the next few days.

KidsHealth Image

KidsHealth Image

  • Don't let your child squeeze or touch the abscess area.

  • Follow the instructions the health care team recommended for:

    • cleaning and bandaging the wound

    • caring for the gauze if it was left in your child's wound

  • Prevent the spread of germs from the abscess:

    • Keep your child's abscess covered with a bandage.

    • Wear gloves or wash your hands before and after caring for the abscess.

    • Don't let your child share washcloths, sheets, towels, clothing or razors.

    • Wash clothing, sheets and towels in hot water. 

  • If the health care provider prescribed an antibiotic, be sure your child takes all doses as directed, even if he or she is feeling better. This is the best way to kill the harmful germs.

  • For pain, use these medicines exactly as directed:

    • acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand)OR

    • ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin® or a store brand). Don't give to babies under 6 months old.

  • Schedule any follow-up appointments as recommended.

KidsHealth Image

Your child:

  • has redness, swelling or pain around the abscess that gets worse

  • seems to be feeling worse

  • has a new fever, or a fever that lasts more than 48 hours

KidsHealth Image

  • Red streaks appear on the skin near the abscess.

KidsHealth Image

How does an abscess happen? An abscess happens when bacteria (germs) get into the skin through a cut or scrape and cause an infection. Usually the infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria. Staph aureus and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus) are the most common bacteria that cause abscesses. 

Why is gauze sometimes put inside the abscess wound? The clean gauze keeps the wound from closing and allows the pus to keep draining. This is part of the healing process.

Does a child with an abscess always need an antibiotic? No, not all children need antibiotics. Some abscesses get better with drainage alone. If your child needs an antibiotic, the health care provider will choose one that treats the specific bacteria.


Powered by StayWell