What is Pus?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

If you’ve ever had a cut that seems to ooze “white stuff” or have noticed a white pimple on your face, then you’ve seen pus. Pus may be disgusting to look at, but it is actually a sign of your body’s ability to fight infections. Pus means your white blood cells are attacking infections present on or in your body.

An ingrown hair with yellow pus.
An ingrown hair with yellow pus.

Pus can be white, slightly yellow or green, and is relatively thick, approximately the same as Elmer’s Glue. It’s actually a collection of dead skin cells, white blood cells called neutrophils, and some bacteria that is still putting up a fight. It is a visible sign that you have an infection. A minor source of tiny amounts of pus, as in a pimple, merely needs to be washed and cleaned with an antiseptic. Many infections that show pus are derived from staph bacteria, which we all have in some amount on our skin.

Doctors often diagnose ear infections by noting pus in the ear canal.
Doctors often diagnose ear infections by noting pus in the ear canal.

With small pimples, it is sufficient to use hot compresses, so that the pus drains. After a daily compress treatment, you should always be sure to use an antiseptic on the pimple. Further, wash your hands after dealing with pus in pimples, because it can still contain live bacteria which can be spread to those around you, or infect other areas of your skin. It’s usually fine to ignore small pimples until they go away. Your body is battling to fight off this small infection, and often wins this battle.

Washing the face regularly may help to reduce the bacteria that causes pus formation in pimples.
Washing the face regularly may help to reduce the bacteria that causes pus formation in pimples.

Pus coming from a wound, or a pimple that gets larger and larger, especially if it is above the cheekbone and below the forehead, suggests the body may need a little extra help fighting the infection. In these cases, a wait and see approach to pus is definitely not recommended. Untreated infections that the body can’t fight can lead to staph infections in the blood, which can be extremely serious.

Good handwashing techniques can help prevent staph infections in the elderly who have pus with pimples.
Good handwashing techniques can help prevent staph infections in the elderly who have pus with pimples.

If you have a great deal of pus coming from a wound, and the wound feels hard, hot, or has red streaks, these are the early signs of an infection called cellulitis, and you should see a doctor right away. Normally, a simple course of antibiotics will clear up the pus and the infection and will promote wound healing. Waiting can mean delaying healing and risking your overall health.

Pus can also be a source of infection to others, especially when there is a lot of it. If you are helping others treat an infected wound, or treating your own, you definitely want to observe excellent handwashing techniques each time you touch the wound. If you’re caring for someone else and have an infected wound, you want to keep this completely covered with bandages so as not to infect others. Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to staph infections.

Often, our body makes pus that we never see. For example, doctors often diagnose ear infections by noting pus in the ear canal. Organs can also be filled with pus, signalling serious infections. Sometimes a person might notice a thick yellowish or whitish fluid while urinating, suggesting a bladder infection which should be checked out by a doctor.

As ironic as it may seem, however, a small amount of pus, particularly in a pimple, is a sign of good health. People who don’t produce enough neutrophils also don’t produce enough pus, and can have a terrible time fighting off infections. In people with healthy immune systems, a simple pus filled pimple suggests your body is working as it should.

Pimple pus should be washed and cleaned with an antiseptic.
Pimple pus should be washed and cleaned with an antiseptic.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I slit my finger open with a paring knife I just pulled out of the dishwasher. The cut was pretty dirty and I just rinsed it of and it needs stitches but I didn't care. The bone stopped the knife and now it's leaking this dark greenish yellow stuff, so now it's too swollen for stitches and is about a half inch thicker than a hot dog.

What are the chances I'll lose it? It seems like a legitimate possibility. I'm 14 and my parents just found out. It also smells really, really bad. My teacher sent me out of class because of it.


I fell while riding my skateboard and scraped my arm but it didn't bleed it was just pus and I put a band aid on it.

After a few days, I took off the band aid and saw there was still pus on the scrape so I put a new band aid on. I took off the last band-aid after a couple of days and noticed it was the scrape was now hard and smelled really bad. Is it infected, and what should I do to help it?


I have had a cut on my bum for long time now and it is always leaking pus. If it heals over and there's pus inside, will my body filter it or will the pus stay infectious until it bursts out?


Please tell me a solution for my face. I have pus pimples on my face. Please tell me what can I do for this.


I fell on a log in the woods and didn't feel pain until the next day. My shin injury made it so I couldn't walk. Instead of seeing a doctor, I let it rest (used R.I.C.E): rest ice compression elevation. I started to notice that it was swelling and I had just two little scabs from the injury. My shin felt really hot to the touch. By days three and four, I could get around to walking or hobbling. I decided to take the scabs off and I oozed this pinkish substance that gradually turned into yellow pus and blood.

I noticed that my shin was decreasing in size, so I kept draining it and kept off my leg. Besides being a little overweight, I don't think I have a compromised immune system, so I didn't think much about it.

I spoke with my sister who is a doctor and casually told her the story. I now have to get checked for MRSA. I would really suggest people talk with their doctor about Staph and MRSA. It seems like most of these stories are about them.


I have this big pimple on my buttocks part. It's been there for a long time now, probably over a year. I don't know how I got it. Now it hurts and secreted this white odorless stuff, sort of like liquid paper ink. Could it be pus? It hurts now and I can't sit well. I need it to be cured. What should I do? Can you tell me the best treatment for it?


how does the body eliminate pus?


I fell down and my toe finger went deep inside the skin, and pus formed. The doctors said if pus went,then only they can do something. what should i do to take off the pus in a few days?


What are the indicators that my body is not functioning well with reference to pus count? I had a gram stain test yesterday and a lab test showed the terms epithelial cells and pus counts.


you are what you eat. eat dead foods then well, you know. the pus is simply a by-product of your body cleaning and healing itself and also a sign to you to stop eating trash and start eating right. Want to be healed completely? Try a fast. Durations will probably be different for each individual. Read about it and then execute the plan and let your body repair itself. Fee like a million bucks again! You can do it, GL.


I have a really deep wound and i had it yesterday afternoon and now there is still a lot of pus and my mom and dad have no time to go to the doctor with me. What are the basics i should do? Would it get worse if i wait for just one more day? Please help me! thank you!


I had this insect bite, and is really itchy. Later on, water is coming out from the bite. I don't know what to do. I'm 18 and female. Thanks a lot.


i have this red line in my scalp and it is watery. i don't know if it is ringworm. can someone help me.


@anon119164: I researched this and found out that ear pits are commonly linked to Branchio oto Renal Syndrome. However, it said that this mutation was genetic and that there is a 50 percent chance in passing it down to your children. However, neither of my parents have this. Is it possible to get rid of it? I really don't want to pass this on to my future children. Thank you for your help.


re: mystery 87 you have an ear pit. My grandfather, brother, his daughter and my daughter all have ear pits. You are born with it and it doesn't go away. It's a genetic mutation, but not dangerous.


i was having a pimple for the last three years is there any cure for this or it is already permanent? P.S I am not using any external medicines. please help. Thanks.


If you get a lot of pimples, you can try to simply wash your face in the shower, (Every other day. Just rub it with a tiny bit of soap and clean water.) and around your nose, squeeze out anything in the pores that looks like it could turn into a blackhead. That should reduce a good portion of skin problems around that area. I've been doing it for years, and never had any issue with pimples during puberty or after.


i have a pimple like a pus on my face. i don't even use soap. is there any solution for it.


I took my dog to the vet yesterday and she is absolutely terrified and spends the whole time running towards the door.

I was holding her on the leash to keep her from escaping and one of her toenails dug fairly deep into the inner part of my right big toe (by the toe nail). It bled a bit and when I got home, I washed it in some water (it really stung so I was afraid to put soap on it) and put neosporin on it. Then, I put a bandaid on it.

It hurt pretty badly all night and when I woke up this morning, I took the bandage off and looked at it really closely. White pus oozed out of it. I then put peroxide on it and it bubbled a lot. I didn't put another band aid on it and it really hurts to walk.

I was curious if it is infected. If so, what should I do? I don't need to see a doctor, do I? I was going to run to walmart and buy a small roll of gauze to put on it. Would that be okay? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


@anon9372: it's a boil. trust me. My cousin had one of them. Go to a doctor. it could spread way worse.


I had a small pimple right between my breasts so I popped it yesterday and it oozed a clear liquid so I put a band-aid over it and went to sleep. When I took the band-aid off it was larger and red and filled with pus. I drained it but I don't know what else I should do about it. It still hurts pretty badly. Should I see a doctor for antibiotics?


I have this hole in my ear that looks like an ear piercing except it's a little puffier. Whitish-yellowish pus comes out of it and it smells pretty bad.

I've had it ever since I was born and when I was little my mom told me that when I grew up, it would disappear so I never really worried about it because I believed her.

Well, I'm nearing adulthood and it's still here and i really want to know what it is. It doesn't really hurt or bother me in any way except that it smells awful and is a pretty embarrassing situation that i never wished to share with anyone.

But I really want to know what's wrong with me and if i should go to a doctor? Do i have some sort of terrible disease? Please respond ASAP. Thank you.


anon, i have the same problem. it's been three days. i thought at first it was a pimple but it ruptured and now oozes pus.


I had a huge pus filled bump that I drained by myself a couple days ago. The pus that came out reeked to high heaven. Is that something that I should go to the doctor for?


the areola of my breast is wounded with pus inside. It started when I stopped breastfeeding. It is itchy and sometimes I can't bear not to scratch it with my finger. What can i do to easily heal my wound? thanks


Beware the boil on the bum, especially if its just above your tailbone. You could have a Pilonidal Cyst.

I have one, and as long as I keep clean I'm O.K. but sometimes, maybe every two years, I may get run down or have a bad time and it returns. Nothing but antibiotics will clear it.

I do find that TCP antiseptic has cleared it a few times but I think eventually I'll have to go in for the dreaded operation (Dreaded because it's many weeks off work and quite painful afterwards!)

I've heard that the pus can get into the spinal fluid and cause paralysis. Can anyone confirm or deny this?


Hey I've got an infected finger - it's swollen up a bit and I've done all i can to get the pus out - it kills. I noticed something. First the pus was green (With a bit of red because I pricked the wrong place) then it changed to whitish-yellow and then white. Is there anything wrong with this?

I had the infected finger about a week ago and I applied Magnoplasm Anti-drawing cream and the infection disappeared, but it's come back. Could you offer any advice about getting rid of this annoying infection? Please, I had this infection at Easter at camping but in another finger. Thanks.


Anon52516, your boyfriend may have a pimple, or he may have a boil, or an infected hair follicle. Any of the three is possible, and usually, none are serious.

Try warming a damp washcloth in the microwave for about 15 seconds. If it is not too hot to handle when you take it out, place the washcloth on the affected area and leave it on until it cools, or as long as he can stand it.

Try this several times. It might make the place come to a "head" and drain on its own. If it isn't better (or gets worse) in four or five days, he probably needs to see a doctor. You can also put an antibiotic ointment on it, along with a cortisone cream. These are available at any drugstore. But do have him see a doctor if it gets worse. He doesn't need a bloodstream infection!


my boyfriend has this big bump on his butt cheek. he says it hurts him really bad. i suggested he should go to the doc, but he didn't want to. it's a really big bump, like a maybe bigger than the size of a quarter and it has like a pimple look but big! i don't know how to help him. what should i do?


I have cysts in my nose between the skin and the cartilage. They have been removed twice now and I believe they are back again. Is there a way to ensure permanent removal of same and to find out why they are actually appearing? Not only do they give my nose an unsightly shape, but they are painful as they stretch the skin of my nose. I have been told they are inclusion cysts, but another doctor told me they were caused by rosacea and another doctor told me it was due to allergies. I have actually ruptured one by massaging and a funny odor came out along with discharge and I am wondering if they are infections of some sort. Apparently the cysts include cartilage, fat, scar and fibrous tissue and the discharge with the funny pus like odor. Can you shed some light for me?


My boy friend has a boil that ruptured. how do I clean pus from his clothes?


Hey i have a mixture of pus and blood coming from my right knee. i bound it with a paper towel and used some neosporin. Should i do anything else?


Wouldn't one of the entries above possibly be considered a Staph infection?


I've had a wound right below my breast where it meets the skin since the summer. It's always red, but it gets brighter, bulges and then pops with blood and greenish smelly ooze coming out. Then it heals and the cycle repeats. Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes I barely notice.

Today I took off the bandage and blood and green stuff came out. Really gross. Now it's a little pea sized hole below my breast. I can't not cover it up because I wear bras and sometimes I guess it pops because I'm moving a lot and it gets ruptured.

I saw a couple doctors in december for a regular check up (when it was just irritated, not popped or a hole) and they said it was just acne... but acne doesn't look like this! help!


I once tripped over a stick on the cement while running and wearing shorts. The blood flow stopped soon, but this yellow fluid kept on leaking out. I put a bandage on it, but after a shower, that night, I tore of the bandage again. It was filled with this yellow-white goo. My mother washed it with salt water. She put another bandage on it. It was still there, a month later, and it looked extremely ugly. So I deliberately tripped over a stick. The pus wound started to bleed again. When it stopped bleeding, the pus didn't disappear, but there were red lines running through it. Grr... Two days later, I accidentally tripped over again for the third time that week. This time, a scab formed. It was gross to see- scab on the top half and pus on the bottom. I picked at it. The red lines through the yellow pus appeared. I was sent to the doctor's. It eventually healed.


I always knew about leukocytes, or white blood cells, being the fighters against bacteria, but in effect it is neutrophils, which I have learned are a subgroup of leukocytes.

Neutrophils can exit through the capillary walls into the affected area, and start their process of disabling foreign substances. Some of them don't make it and that plus other microorganisms make up pus.

Post your comments
Forgot password?