Breast Abscess: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

An abscess is a pocket of pus formed by infection. Breast abscesses are most common in women who are breastfeeding. You can usually continue to breastfeed your baby in spite of a breast abscess. It will not harm your baby. If your doctor advises you to stop breastfeeding on the affected breast while it heals, you can continue breastfeeding from the healthy breast.

Sometimes antibiotics are used to treat a breast abscess. If antibiotics do not cure the abscess, it may need to be drained through a small cut (incision).

You may have had a sedative to help you relax. You may be unsteady after having sedation. It can take a few hours for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or tired.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If the doctor gave you a sedative:
    • For 24 hours, don't do anything that requires attention to detail. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
    • For your safety, do not drive or operate any machinery that could be dangerous. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your doctor drained the abscess, you may have a tube or gauze in the abscess to allow it to continue draining. Follow your doctor's instructions on bathing and caring for the wound.
  • If you are breastfeeding, continue breastfeeding or pumping breast milk, as your doctor advises. It is important to empty your breasts regularly. However, your doctor may advise you to discard the milk from the affected breast until the abscess heals.
    • Before breastfeeding, place a warm, wet face cloth over the breast for about 15 minutes. Try this at least 3 times a day.
    • If pus is no longer draining from the abscess, breastfeed on both sides.
    • Gently massage your breast to stimulate milk flow.
    • Pump or hand-express a small amount of breast milk before breastfeeding if your breasts are too full with milk or if it hurts too much to nurse. This will make your breasts less full and may make it easier for your baby to nurse.
    • Try feeding from the healthy breast. Then, after your milk is flowing, breastfeed from the affected breast until it feels soft.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If your doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless your doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your breast for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling. If you are breastfeeding, do this between feedings. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • If pus is draining from your infected breast, wash the nipple gently and let it air-dry before you put your bra back on. A disposable breast pad placed in the bra cup will help absorb the pus.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your symptoms of infection get worse. This may include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around a breast.
    • Red streaks extending from a breast.
    • Pus draining from a breast.
    • A new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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