An abscess (AB-sess) is a collection of pus that forms as part of the body's response to an infection. A skin abscess forms when bacteria get under the skin.
A skin abscess happens when the body tries to fight off an infection. The immune system sends white blood cells, which collect around the infected area and cause a buildup of pus. Skin abscesses are commonly treated by draining the pus from the infected area.
An abscess usually will not get better until the pus drains out. Sometimes you can help this happen naturally by using warm compresses or soaks and antibiotics. Other times, a doctor drains the pus and might have a sample tested to identify which bacteria caused the infection. After draining the abscess, the doctor might clean the area and cover it with gauze or a bandage. Some abscesses do not require antibiotic treatment after drainage; others are treated with both drainage and antibiotic medication.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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