May also be called: Boil; Carbuncle; Furuncle
An abscess (AB-sess) is a collection of pus that forms as part of the body's response to an infection.
Abscesses form after bacteria, fungi, or other germs enter the body — usually through an open wound like a cut — and cause an infection. When this happens, the immune system sends white blood cells to fight the infection. It's these white blood cells, along with other debris, that can collect in the wound and make pus. When pus collects, sometimes it can't drain out and the area begins to hurt.
Abscesses usually are red, swollen, and warm to the touch, and they might leak fluid. They can develop on top of or under the skin, in a tooth, or deep inside the body.
Some abscesses heal with simple treatment at home, but more serious cases can require a hospital stay. An abscess should be examined by a health care provider to determine the best treatment.
In general, skin abscesses will drain and heal with no long-term problems. Other abscesses are treated with antibiotics or a minor procedure or surgery to help drain the abscess. Good hygiene can help prevent skin and tooth abscesses.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Skin Infections Instruction Sheet Skin abscesses or boils (a collection of pus in the skin) and cellulitis (bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and tissues beneath) are typical childhood skin infections. The usual bacterial suspects in skin infections are strep or staph, both requiring medical treatment.|
|Checking Out Cuts, Scratches, and Abrasions If you're wearing a bandage right now, chances are you have a cut, scratch, or abrasion. Find out more about them in this article for kids.|
|Cellulitis Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can affect any area of the body. It begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch.|
|Cellulitis Cellulitis is a skin infection that involves areas of tissue just below the skin's surface. It can affect any part of the body, but it's most common on exposed areas, such as the face, arms, or lower legs.|
|Cellulitis Cellulitis is a serious infection that can be mistaken for a bruise, scrape, or insect bite. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Wound Healing and Care How well a wound heals depends on where it is on the body and what caused it – as well as how well someone cares for the wound at home. Find out what to do in this article for teens.|
|Paronychia Paronychia is an infection of the skin around a fingernail or toenail. Most of the time, it's not serious. Find out what causes it, what to do, and how to prevent it.|
|Paronychia Paronychia is an infection of the skin around a fingernail or toenail. Most of the time, it's not serious and can be treated at home. Learn what causes it, what to do, and how to prevent it.|
|Cuts, Scratches, and Scrapes Most small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions heal on their own. Here are tips for teens on how to treat cuts at home - and when to get medical help.|
|Dealing With Cuts and Wounds Most cuts can be safely treated at home, but deep cuts and certain other injuries require medical treatment. Find out what to do by reading this printable instruction sheet.|
|Peritonsillar Abscess A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. Find out how it happens and what to do.|
|Wound Drainage Culture Doctors order wound drainage cultures when they suspect wounds are infected.|
|Abscess An area of infected tissue is called an abscess. Find out how to spot a skin abscess and when to call the doctor.|
|Peritonsillar Abscess Older kids and teens with tonsilitis sometimes develop this painful abscess, a pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth.|
|Dealing With Cuts Find out how to handle minor cuts at home - and when to seek professional treatment.|
|Abscess People can get abscesses on the skin, under the skin, in a tooth, or even inside the body. Most abscesses are caused by infection, so it can help to know what to do. Find out in this article for teens.|
|MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. Simple precautions can help protect your kids from becoming infected.|
|MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. The good news is that there are some simple ways to protect yourself from being infected. Find out how.|
|Abscess An abscess is a sign of an infection, usually on the skin. Find out what to do if your child develops one.|
|Staph Infections Staph bacteria can live harmlessly on many skin surfaces. But the bacteria can get into wounds and cause an infection. Get the details in this article for teens.|
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