Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"I have an abscess. Should I go to the ER?"

ZocdocAnswersI have an abscess. Should I go to the ER?


I have had it for one day now, and my face has swollen. Should I go to the emergency room?


Anytime you have a significant infection especially one that is on the face, you should always seek medical care right away. An abscess is a type of infection that forms a pocket underneath the skin that is intended to prevent infection from spreading to the rest of the body. While an abscess is successful at preventing the infection from spreading into other organs and into the blood, it also prevents the immune system and antibiotics from directly accessing some of the bacteria. It's almost as if the infection is being placed on quarantine. Because of this potential standoff, and abscess must be drained in many situations. This must always be done by a healthcare professional. I would suggest that you go to the emergency department or potentially your primary care physician's office. Depending on the size of the abscess, your doctor might not be comfortable draining this abscess without surgical help. In some cases the situation calls for a plastic surgeon to help out to minimize any scarring that might occur from the drainage process. Once the abscesses drained it is often filled with something we call a wic this is a small piece of cloth the prevents the abscess from closing. This assists in healing the infection. In most cases antibiotics are not needed.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.