Is an abscess contagious?
The abscess itself is not contagious. It is a pus pimple with local inflammatory reaction and is caused by bacteria. Therefore, the pus that can come out of the abscess when it is opened is highly infectious.
If left untreated, pus from the abscess can enter the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning. However, as long as the abscess is treated and no one has contact with the abscess and pus, it is not contagious. You should avoid pushing around even on abscesses to get rid of the pus, as this creates a high risk of germs being carried away.
In principle, every abscess should be relieved. This means that during a more or less major operation the abscess is opened and the pus can be drained. The exact procedure of the operation and also the type of anaesthesia (general or local anaesthesia) depend on: In general, the treatment proceeds as follows: First the doctor cuts through the skin and tissue with a scalpel until the abscess is opened and the pus can drain (incision).
As a rule, the abscess cavity is first rinsed before a drainage is inserted without endangering other surrounding tissue with an infection. When the pus is completely emptied, the next step is to remove the inflamed tissue and clean the resulting wound. Normally, these two steps are carried out as part of one operation, but in the case of particularly large abscesses, a two-stage procedure (renewed intervention) may occasionally be necessary.
Following drainage, the wound is not sutured. The aim is to prevent any pathogens or fluids that may not have been completely removed from the wound from re-encapsulating and causing an abscess to develop again. In order for this so-called secondary wound healing to take place properly, it is of utmost importance that the wound is cleaned at regular intervals and the dressings are changed regularly.
In the case of abscesses that are not visible from the outside and inaccessible with a simple scalpel (for example, abscesses in the abdominal cavity), drainage must be carried out either with sonographic or CT control to ensure that the needle inserted to relieve the pressure actually reaches the abscess. Not infrequently, especially in cases of advanced severity of an abscess (especially in sepsis), antibiotics are administered in addition to the abscess drainage. Which agent is used here depends on: Occasionally an abscess is still “immature”, which means that the painful, newly developing cavity has not yet completely filled with pus.
In order to accelerate the maturation of the abscess, ointments can be applied which increase the blood circulation and thus the effectiveness of defence cells. – Size and location of the abscess
- Which pathogen it was caused by
- Pre-existing conditions of the patient
- Nature of the abscess
- Type of pathogen
- Possible allergy to a certain preparation
The best treatment method for an abscess is surgical opening, the “pricking”. An abscess is an accumulation of pus that has encapsulated itself from the rest of the tissue and is usually caused by bacteria such as staphylococci.
The capsule makes it difficult for antibiotics to reach the inside of an abscess, so an abscess should be opened and the pus drained. Abscesses can form anywhere in the body, very large and poorly accessible abscesses may require surgery under general anesthesia. Superficial, easily accessible abscesses, for example of the skin, can also be punctured under local anaesthesia.
When piercing an abscess, first the capsule is opened and then the pus contained is drained. The abscess cavity must then be rinsed with disinfectant rinsing fluid to remove even the last remains of pus. In the case of superficial abscesses, the empty capsule cavity is tamponaded with antibacterial material; the open wound is not closed.
This procedure of open wound treatment is necessary to avoid re-encapsulation of infected tissue. The tamponade is initially removed daily, the empty capsule cavity is rinsed again and a new tamponade is inserted. The open wound treatment is continued until a new filling of the abscess cavity is no longer expected.
In the case of deep-seated abscesses, e.g. in the abdominal cavity, open wound treatment cannot of course be performed. Such an abscess is opened under general anaesthetic and the pus is sucked out. After irrigation, a drainage is inserted, which uses a light suction to channel wound fluid and pus from the inside of the body to the outside into a drainage bottle, thus keeping the empty abscess capsule clean.
In the case of large abscesses, despite the surgical therapy, an accompanying antibiotic treatment must often be carried out; in the case of smaller abscesses, a pricking and subsequent properly performed wound treatment is generally sufficient and the administration of antibiotics is unnecessary. An abscess should not be punctured or pushed open by the person affected. There is a risk that the bacteria in the pus will spread to previously unaffected tissue or that the abscess capsule will not be completely emptied because the person affected cannot properly perform a disinfectant irrigation.
The spread of germs could cause further abscesses or lead to blood poisoning (sepsis). If an abscess opens up by itself, the person affected should also consult a doctor to have it flushed and tamponaded. Clean and hygienic work is very important in the treatment of abscesses.
There are many ointments available for the treatment of abscesses, which can be bought over the counter in pharmacies, but also various prescription preparations, which contain ammonium bituminosulphate, an ingredient of oil shale. These ointments work by increasing the blood flow in the affected area, which makes it easier to remove pathogens. A better removal of bacteria is also mediated by the absorption-promoting properties of these so-called pulling ointments.
In addition, the ointments for abscess treatment inhibit the development and spread of inflammation and pain. Pulling or pulling ointments are recommended in the early stages of an abscess, as they can prevent the spread of pathogens in small collections of pus. However, large abscesses accompanied by severe redness, pain and possibly even fever should not be treated with pulling ointments alone, as the ointment is not able to penetrate larger capsules.
However, a pulling ointment can serve well as a supportive treatment for an abscess, as it softens the skin above the abscess and reduces the size of the abscess capsule. The pulling ointment should be applied thickly to the abscess once a day until the abscess is bulging and can then be punctured by the doctor. The ointment supports the “maturation” of the abscess, a process in which the tissue melts, the abscess contracts and the accumulation of pus is completely sealed off.
Pulling ointment can be used for small abscesses, furuncles (hair follicle inflammation) and carbuncles (several boils), acne and purulent nail bed inflammation and accelerate the healing process. Should the abscess still enlarge under the therapy with pulling ointment, a quick splitting of the abscess by the doctor is the only permanent treatment method. Zinc ointment has been used for a long time to treat wounds, as it has anti-inflammatory, disinfecting and wound healing properties.
It is used especially at the edges of wounds or for itching and weeping spots. It is not used on open wounds as it dries out the wounds. It is recommended for the treatment of skin rashes, lichen, acne and burns.
As the abscess is an open suppurating wound in acute cases, it is better not to treat it with zinc ointment in this state, but to consult a doctor. As long as the abscess is closed, zinc ointment can be used. Abscesses usually heal very well again if the correct treatment is carried out.
However, one must be aware that the time to complete healing can sometimes take several weeks and requires discipline, as the wound must be cleaned regularly and the dressing must be renewed. It is important to be patient during this time and not to put too much strain on the wound, as germs can get in. If the abscess has not been treated properly or if it could not be removed completely, there is a risk that an abscess will form again in the same place after some time.
The exact prognosis of an abscess depends not only on the correct treatment but also on its size and location. If an abscess does not heal properly despite appropriate therapy, or if it recurs repeatedly, this may be an indication of a weakened immune system or diabetes mellitus and should be clarified by a doctor. Thorough removal and pathogen-specific antibiotic therapy is therefore very important in order to be able to treat the abscess adequately.
Nevertheless, some forms of abscesses can lead to dangerous complications. This makes the specific treatment of the abscess all the more important. The duration of healing depends on the size, location and treatment of the abscess.
The larger the abscess, the longer it takes to reoccur if it had to be removed surgically. A small abscess can only be dried out within days to weeks by applying a traction ointment. A large abscess usually has to be operated, in which the abscess is opened and the inflamed tissue removed.
This must then grow back together again. This also takes several weeks. Depending on the location of the abscess, it is also more difficult to treat it, which is why it takes longer to heal.
For example, removing an abscess from the face is more difficult than removing one from the buttocks. Finally, it depends on how and whether the abscess is treated. Without treatment, there is a risk that the abscess will spread, lead to blood poisoning or the abscess will recur again and again.
This of course prolongs the healing time considerably. If the abscess is well positioned, not too large and can be removed completely by surgery, there is a high probability that it will heal without complications. This can then take several weeks.
When treating the wound, it is important to rinse the area well every day and change the dressing daily to prevent the abscess from forming again. If the abscess cannot be completely removed due to its size and location, a drainage is inserted for 6-8 weeks. The abscess can still heal without complications, but the duration of the disease can be extended to weeks or months.
In general, an abscess is a protracted illness, and one must maintain good hygiene in order not to get it back. In general, however, it helps to pay attention to thorough personal hygiene and to wear air-permeable, not too tight-fitting clothes. To prevent anal abscesses, a balanced diet is also important, as too tight a bowel movement can contribute to an inflammatory reaction of the proteal glands.
It is difficult to protect oneself from abscesses, as it is often impossible to influence their development. Syringe abscesses can be avoided by proper disinfection before the intervention. Transmitted abscesses can also be avoided by careful and specific therapy of the underlying disease. It is particularly important that infections of the pneumatological spaces in the head are well and adequately treated, since brain abscesses can have serious consequences and in some cases end fatally. Head abscess