Wound Care


Wound Care is essential if you are an injection drug user.  If you have not had an abscess and you are an injection drug user consider yourself lucky! 1/3 of all injection drug users suffer from soft tissues and skin infections.  Abscesses and Cellulitis are the wounds you hear about most often, but there is a wide range of potential skin and woundcare issues leading to cutaneous and subcutaneous effects, including thrombophlebitis, venous sclerosis, lymphedema, superficial scarring and discoloration, chronic venous insufficiency, and ulcers.

Many of these wounds can be easily treated in primary care settings the problem is that most IDU’s do not go to the doctor right away, but try and treat the wounds on their own.

Using clinical judgment from a research project I used 2 categories of behavior they created.  They classified the following self-management behaviors to be associated with less potential harm: “doing nothing,” “avoiding injecting at sites [near their wounds],” “soaking,” “cleaning,” “applying ointment,” and “dressing [their wounds].”

They classified the following behaviors to be associated with more potential harm: “acquiring antibiotics [without a prescription]” and “manipulating their wounds, by pushing and pressing on them. (Roose et al, 2009)


Boil’s and Abscess’s

What is an Abscess?  How do you get an Abscess?

1. It is very important to clean your skin before you do your shot!  Most people think all  you have to do is clean up when your finished but cleaning your skin beforehand is so important.  You can use an alcohol swab and clean your skin prior to the shot real quick!! If you don’t use a sterile syringe and clean yourself up carefully, the risk of getting an abscess is high. An Abscess is a localized area of puss surrounded by an inflamed area.

What to do if I get an Abscess

It is always best to go to the doctor if you can.  Remember, the doctor cannot do anything to you even if he knows you are using drugs.  You will not get in any trouble.  If you are nervous about how they will treat you bring someone or call your local harm reduction organization.  In areas with an Urban Survivors’ Union we will do our best to send one of our members with you for support.

If you have a really bad infection, you may need to go to the clinic and ask to be put on antibiotics. The health care worker will probably need to drain the pus to relieve the infection.


You must go to the hospital or clinic if:

It has not improved after 5 to 7 days.
The lump gets bigger and 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 Emergency Room if:

You have chest pains.
You have chills or a high fever.
 Infection seems to be spreading rapidly

Shooting amphetamines has been found to be associated with people utilizing harmful behaviors to deal with wounds.  We know that uppers can cause you to start messing with the wound, pressing on it, picking at it, …..remember when you are doing all of this you are potentially spreading infection all over….

TRY NOT TO FUCK WITH IT…..COVER IT WITH BANDAGES…..DO NOT PICK AT IT OR PRESS ON IT…. and most importantly wash your hands every time you touch it.  If you make a shot you can contaminate what you are about to shoot into your blood stream….THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS…..

Roose, R. J., Hayashi, A. S., & Cunningham, C. O. (2009). Self-management of injection-related wounds among injecting drug users. Journal of addictive diseases, 28(1), 74-80.

If you are not going to the doctor or the emergency room here are some some techniques for care

Warm Compresses

The frequent application of a warm compress might help boils heal without requiring a visit to the doctor. The Mayo Clinic advises using a warm, damp compress for at least 10 minutes at a time throughout the day to promote drainage of the wound. Salt water, such as a sterile saline solution available at pharmacies, can hasten the rupturing of the boil in some cases. Once the boil ruptures and empties itself of infectious waste, the sore can begin to heal.


Some Home Remedies for Abscesses:


Campho-Phenique is said to be great for healing skin abscesses, its antiseptic gel formulation gets a hell yeah from users for relieving pain and causing the abscess to come to head and bust!!. This  is an over-the-counter product, which can be found in any drugstore, contains phenol and an antiseptic agent.  This over the counter medicine has temporary numbing effect on the skin, and the antiseptic stops micro-organisms from growing. One account of a user of campho phenique said he put a small amount of gel on a band aid and covered the boil. Pain relief came fast and within a few hours, the boil burst.



Yeah, I’m talking about the spice in Indian Food.  I have never heard of this but I found it in a home remedy section on boils. Curcumin is the active component in turmeric, and there have been somenconflicting findings, but turmeric has shown promise for use in reducing inflammation and fighting infection, according to the University of Maryland Health Center. People with boils have taken turmeric as a drink, making a tea by adding 1 or 2 tsp. of the powder to milk or water, and drinking that concoction three times a day, and drinking it for three days. Another suggestion is to mix turmeric with milk or water to make a paste and apply it to the boil directly. skinverse.com  states that drinking the tea will clear the internal infection, and the paste will clear up the boil itself; you can use both methods at the same time.  Here is a link to the artilce:    http://skinverse.com/turmeric-for-painful-boils/

Raw Potato

1 inch thick slices of raw potato tape it to the boil.  The potato draws the poisons from the abscess. Using scrapings of raw potato wrap them up in gauze and apply to wound.

Raw Onion

Onions have antiseptic chemicals that can draw blood to the area of the boil. Thick slices of raw onion placed on boil cover with towel.   The onion should be replaced every couple of hours until the abscess busts!

How to dress a wound:

A. Dressing materials The best material for dressings is simple cotton gauze. You only need enough to lightly cover the wound. Be sure to open the gauze completely to prevent unnecessary waste of supplies. Remember, there is nothing sterile about an open wound. Bacteria will always colonize the wound. Unless there is an important underlying structure (a prosthetic joint), clean technique is usually sufficient.

Solution to clean my wound:

Solution Preparation Notes:

Povidone iodine: Comes pre-made in containers. Best diluted for dressings: 1 part povidone iodine to at least 3 or 4 parts saline or sterile water. Toxic to healthy tissues; best used in diluted form for only a few days- then change to a milder solution. Safe on the face and around the eyes.

Saline:   Comes pre-made, but easy to make yourself. To 1 liter of water add 1 tsp salt. Boil the solution for at least 60 seconds and allow to cool. Store in a closed, sterile container and refrigerate if possible. Good for several days. Safe anywhere on the body.

Sterile water:  Boil a liter of water for at least 60 seconds and allow to cool. Store in a closed, sterile container and refrigerate if possible. Good for several days. Safe anywhere on the body.

Dakin’s solution: Some pharmacies keep Dakin’s solution in stock, but it is easy to make. To 1 liter of saline solution, add 5-10 cc of liquid bleach. Store in a closed, sterile container and refrigerate if possible. If your pharmacy carries Dakin’s solution, it’s best used diluted: 1 part Dakin’s solution mixed with 3- 4 parts saline. Better antibacterial agent than saline- so a little harsher on normal tissue. Do not use around the eyes. Makes wounds smell better.