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How do you identify an abscess? An abscess is a pocket of pus that appears on the site of infection.

An abscess is a pocket of pus. Pus means that you have an infection. Pus is made of dead tissue, germs (bacteria) and white blood cells. The white blood cells rally around to kill the germs. Sometimes abscesses will burst and drain, this is the way the body gets rid of getting rid of the infection.

You are more likely to damage tissue and develop abscess whey you “skin pop,” “muscle it,” or miss the vein. Both the cut and the drug itself can cause infection and damage tissue. You can even get an abscess AFTER you stop injecting.

What signs should you look for?

  • Swelling and redness
  • Skin feels hot/tender
  • Pus formation with possibly a foul smell
  • Tenderness and pain

As the infection spreads you might see red streaks spreading out and away from the abscess. The infection might make you feel tired or cause fever or chills. You might have chest pains if the infection goes to your heart or lungs.

What should you do if you get an abscess?

People with abscesses would be encouraged to seek medical advice as they will probably require antibiotic treatment.

Go to see a harm reduction nurse or go to a clinic:

  • If it has not improved after 5-7 days
  • The lump get bigger or more painful
  • You see red streaks spreading out from the lump
  • The lump is hot, puffy and pink 
  • You get a fever

Go to the Accident & Emergency department if:

  • You have chest pains
  • You have chills or a fever
  • The infection looks like it is spreading fast
  • DO NOT shoot into or near an abscess
  • DO NOT squeeze or cut into an abscess-you could push germs into your bloodstream causing septicaemia. This could also damage your heart lining with bacteria that can cause an infection to grow in your heart. This is called endocartitis, and it is a life threatening condition
  • People with weak immune systems are more likely to develop abscesses. If you have a weak immune system, you need to be even more careful