An abscess or boil is an unpleasant buildup of pus and oils beneath the skin that get trapped there with no way out. When the boils get large enough they can become very painful and make it difficult to work or move around. Learning how to remove these boils yourself in a SHTF situation is an essential skill that you can learn below.
To deal with an abscess, a route must be forged to evacuate the pus. The easiest way to do this is to place warm moist compresses over the area, also known as “ripening the abscess”. Apply the compress over the area for 15 minutes or so every couple of hours during the day. This will help bring the infection to the surface of the skin, where it will form a “head” and, hopefully, drain spontaneously. The abscess will go from firm to soft as it ripens; it’ll develop a “whitehead” pimple at the likely point of exit.
If a few days go by without spontaneous drainage, it may become clear that a boil or abscess will not respond to lesser treatment and needs surgical intervention. Always wash your hands and put on gloves before attempting this or, really, any other medical procedure.
Clean the area with an antiseptic and apply a numbing agent (even ice will do). You’ll need a sharp sterile instrument such as a scalpel (a #11 blade is best). If you don’t have a sterile instrument, you can put a thin blade over a fire until it becomes red hot, then let cool.
Using the tip of the scalpel, pierce the skin over the abscess perpendicular to the surface of the skin. The pus should drain freely, and your patient will probably experience immediate relief from the release of pressure. Sometimes a small Kelly clamp is useful to break up little compartments in the abscess called “loculations“, Have some extra gauze handy, as a large boil can be messy to treat.
Finally, apply an antibiotic ointment like Bactroban or raw, unprocessed honey to the skin surrounding the incision and cover with a clean bandage.
Hopefully, you can deal with the boil using the initial method of adding a warm compress, saving you the trouble and risk of having to cut the boil open.
That method should only be used as a last resort because it can lead to further infection. If you have antibiotic ointment, be sure to use it and keep the area clean.
The one thing worse than a boil is an infected incision that is progressing into your bloodstream.
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