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How should my child be treated for an abscess or boil?

 If your child’s abscess or boil needs to be cut open to drain, he may need medicine to make him relaxed and sleepy (sedation).

  • Pain medicines or sedatives (anxiety medicines) may be used.
  • These medicines can help your child stay calm, be able to lie still and have less pain.
  • They may be given by mouth or through an IV (intravenous) line.

If you know ahead of time that your child is coming into the ED or clinic to have the abscess or boil drained, do not give him anything to eat or drink for 4-5 hours before coming in. If your child needs sedation, the doctor and nurse will give you more information.

Your child’s abscess or boil may be packed with gauze or have a drain in it once it is cut open. This helps to keep the area open and draining longer. It also helps to keep pus from filling up inside again.

Some general treatment guidelines to follow at home include:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water for 15 seconds before and after treating your child.
  • You do not need to do anything to the abscess or boil for the first 24 hours.
  • If there is no packing or drain - soak the area in warm, soapy water 2-3 times a day for the next several days. This will help it to keep draining.
  • If there is packing or a drain or if you cannot soak the area easily - apply warm, wet compresses instead.
  • After soaking, dry the area. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Keep the area covered until it stops draining and closes over.
  • Give your child antibiotics (medicines used to kill germs) if prescribed by the doctor. If so, take them for the entire time prescribed.
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol, or less costly store brand) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil or less costly store brand) for fever or pain if advised by your doctor. Follow the directions on the box carefully or ask your child’s doctor how much medicine to give.

DO NOT:

Give your child more than 5 doses of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period.

Give acetaminophen to babies younger than 3 months old without talking with your child’s doctor.

Give ibuprofen to babies younger than 6 months old without talking with your child’s doctor.

Give acetaminophen and ibuprofen together.

Alternate these medicines.

  • The doctor may prescribe other pain medicines. If so, take them as your doctor directs.
  • If the area was packed or a drain was placed, follow your doctor’s instructions for further treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.