You can minimize abscess swelling by draining the wound and allowing it to heal. There are few ways to reduce swelling until the abscess is ready to drain. In the meantime, you can try placing warm rags over the area to draw pus to the surface and to temporarily reduce pain. For very large abscesses, you may need to see a doctor to have it lanced, or cut open, to allow for faster drainage.
Abscess swelling is caused by infection, tissue, debris, and blood cells accumulating in one particular area of skin. This usually occurs in hair follicles, pores, or sweat glands, although they are also common beneath teeth at the gum line. Internal abscesses can also occur, but are less common and they must be treated by a doctor.
The first thing you can try to reduce abscess swelling is to put a rag soaked in warm water or warm vinegar on the area. The heat will minimize pain and swelling and will help to draw its contents to the surface so that it will erupt sooner and alleviate pain. Using vinegar will help to prevent infection because it has natural antibacterial properties.
Once the abscess has a whitehead, you can try gently poking it with a sterilized needle. If this doesn’t work after once or twice, leave it alone and wait for the whitehead to become more prominent. Do not squeeze or attempt to “pop” an abscess, as this can occasionally lead to infection moving into the body and causing blood poisoning. Many times an abscess will eventually open up on its own, primarily if it is located in a high friction area like the inner thighs or armpit.
After it begins to drain, the swelling should go down considerably. Once it is open, you can lightly squeeze the area to speed the drainage. Be sure to grip it gently and pull slowly inward and outward to move the contents away from the body.
Sometimes you may have to see a doctor to relieve the swelling. This may be necessary if an abscess does not erupt on its own after a week, has grown unusually large or has become painful enough to disrupt your daily life. The doctor may use a lance to cut open the top layer of the abscess, allowing it to drain. Antibiotics may be given to prevent infection. Dental abscesses may be treated in much the same way, although it occasionally requires minor surgery to reach and drain the wound.
Abscess swelling should go down almost immediately after drainage, and should be gone after about a week. If swelling does not go away or begins to reappear after the wound has been drained, you may need to see a health care provider for further treatment. While the abscess is draining, be sure to keep the area covered and to clean anything that may have come in contact with it, as they can be very contagious and could lead to more abscesses on you or someone else.
Severe or recurrent abscess swelling occasionally signals a treatment resistant strain of bacteria. Special medications may need to be given in this case. The area should be washed frequently and thoroughly, whether the abscess is severe or not, with an antiseptic wash or rinse.