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News Link • Health and Physical Fitness

Letter Re: How to Drain an Abscess


1. Never squeeze (pinching between fingers with force) an abscess trying to get it to pop (remember your mother's admonishments about pimples?) Squeezing may be successful in getting pus to come out, but you force the bacteria and toxins into deeper tissues and possibly blood vessels which may cause distant secondary infections. In certain areas like the face, it could be a lethal complication. If an area seems to be draining, Gently push ("palpate") down on either side of the area - if more fluid drains then continue to use other conservative methods or get definitive drainage.

2. If an area is red and hard, but not yet full of fluid ("fluctuant") and if the origin is bacterial, it will become an abscess without treatment, whether antibiotics or drainage. But if there's nothing to drain yet, what do you do? Go ask your grandparents - in drug stores of the past a staple item was "drawing salve" - something that you smeared on the affected area and cover with a bandage. After a few days the area would drain pus, relieving the problem. Medically, what is occurring is that the white cells in the area are being encouraged to migrate to the surface where the salve is applied, liquefying and thinning out the overlying skin until the area can drain naturally. This prevents the abscess from extending into deeper tissues with all the associated risk. Drawing salves are over the counter and can still be found today or ordered by the pharmacist. They have names like coal tar salve, homeopathic drawing salve, and a brand name is Ichthammol Drawing Salve Ointment, available on


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