Skip to main content

Abscess in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is an area under your child's skin where pus (infected fluid) collects. An abscess is often caused by bacteria, fungi, or other germs that get into an open wound. Your child can get an abscess anywhere on his or her body.

Skin Abscess

What increases my child's risk for an abscess?

  • An animal bite
  • A foreign object lodged under your child's skin
  • Heavy or frequent sweating
  • A condition that causes a weak immune system such as diabetes or HIV
  • A large cut, scrape, or open wound

What are the signs and symptoms of an abscess?

Your child may have a swollen mass that is red and painful. Pus may leak out of the mass. The pus will be white or yellow and may smell bad. Your child may have redness and pain days before the mass appears. Your child may have a fever and chills if the infection spreads.

How is an abscess diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine the area. He or she will check to see if the abscess is draining. A sample of fluid from your child's abscess may show what germ is causing the infection.

How is an abscess treated?

  • Medicine may be given to treat an infection. Medicine may also be given to decrease pain and swelling.
  • Incision and drainage is a procedure used to remove pus and fluid from the abscess. Your child's healthcare provider will make a cut in the abscess so it can drain. Then gauze may be put into the wound and covered with a bandage.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove the abscess. Your child's healthcare provider may do this if the abscess is on your child's hands or buttocks. Surgery can decrease the risk that the abscess will come back.

What can I do to care for my child?

  • Apply a warm compress to your child's abscess. This will help it open and drain. Wet a washcloth in warm, but not hot, water. Apply the compress for 10 minutes. Repeat this 4 times each day. Do not press on an abscess or try to open it with a needle. You may push the bacteria deeper or into your child's blood. If your child's abscess opens, cover it with a bandage as directed.
  • Do not share your child's clothes, towels, or sheets with anyone. This can spread the infection to others.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. This can help prevent the spread of germs. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

What can I do to care for my child's wound after it is drained?

  • Care for your child's wound as directed. If your child's healthcare provider says it is okay, carefully remove the bandage and gauze packing. You may need to soak the gauze to get it out of your child's wound. Clean your child's wound and the area around it as directed. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages. Change your child's bandages when they get wet or dirty.
  • Ask your child's healthcare provider how to change the gauze in your child's wound. Keep track of how many pieces of gauze are placed inside the wound. Do not put too much packing in the wound. Do not pack the gauze too tightly in your child's wound.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a fever and chills.
  • The area around your child's abscess becomes more painful, warm, or has red streaks.
  • Your child is more tired than usual or feels faint.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child's abscess gets bigger.
  • Your child's abscess returns.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.