Abscesses and other infections are problems that are more common when sanitation is not available, or harder to get. These are problems that are fairly easy to deal with. If you can get medical help, that is always preferable, but there are lots of times during disasters when you can not get medical help. Other times you have to wait so long for the medical help, you could become unnecessarily sick.
I use hot packs to prevent and treat infections as part of my daily health care. I am not recommending that you do this, but it is a good idea to know how to do it for when you can't get medical care.
I also use hot packs to treat my cats. This gives me lots of practice. Cats are prone to frequent abscesses because they swat each other with dirty claws and the wound heals over with infection inside.
I also use herbs and other alternative health treatments, but those can require more study than hot packs. If you know more about herbs, you can use some herbs in your hot packs. There are some that have a drawing action and others that are antibiotics to kill germs.
It is a good idea to know what some of the herbs in your area are good for. If you cannot get any medicine, the herbs could substitute. I prefer herbs over chemical medicines most of the time, because they are safer, gentler and cheaper.
My elderly cat gets abscesses a lot because he is an obnoxious little sucker and will not give up the idea that he is alpha kitty. He is much smaller and older than my young cat. That adds up to abscesses for the senior kitty.
I use white terry washcloths for my hot packs. I buy them on sale when they have a cheap price for 18 or 20 of them.
I keep stacks of them around all the time. I pick white because dyes can cause allergic reactions sometimes. It doesn't happen often, but you don't need to add that to your problems during a disaster.
Hot packs are good for abscesses because they help to bring the infection to a head and it will often pop and drain by itself. Abscesses will often go away just from the use of the hot packs. If the abscess has to be lanced, having the abscess ready to be lanced is better than stabbing it and poking around in it to get it to drain.
One of the things you need to watch out for with hot packs is don't burn the skin by getting them too hot or leaving them in one spot too long. A way to make sure you don't do this is to use your bare hands to handle the hot packs. You have more risk of infection in your hands that way, though. Cuts, nicks and abrasions are more common during disasters, and you may have them on your hands and not know it.
You can drop a little water, that you use to soak the washcloths in, on the inside of your wrist or elbow to test it and make sure it is not too hot. It should be as hot as is bearable for maximum effect.
I do not suddenly hold a hot cloth to an abscess, I gently brush it across the wound a few times first. As soon as the person or animal with the abscess is uncomfortable, I remove the hot pack. If the abscess covers a large area, I move the hot pack to another spot. If the abscess is small, I just hold it away for a few seconds. As the skin around the abscess becomes more accustomed to the heat, you can leave the hot pack on longer.
My old cat is so used to this process that he lets me know when the hot pack is uncomfortably hot. He turns his head for me to put it in the next spot.
It is better to take longer to apply a hot pack than to take a chance on adding a burn to the injury. I err on the side of leaving it off too long instead of leaving it on too long.
As soon as the hot pack cools to body temperature, I am done for this session or ready to change the water. If the abscess is hard, very swollen, and/or painful, then I think it is a worse abscess and requires more frequent and longer hot pack sessions.
When the abscess becomes soft or you can see a white head near the surface of the skin, it is probably ready to lance. I do not like lancing at all. Most of the time, if my old cat's abscess does not get well from the hot packs, I want to take him to a vet. I wait until I think the abscess has come to a head, though.
I made the mistake a long time ago of taking a cat to the vet too soon and either the vet could not feel the abcess yet, and I had to go back later when it got worse, or it required two or more office visits and maybe an overnight stay. That is way too much money and too much stress for the cat and for me.
When I take the cat in with the abscess ready to be lanced, the vet can get it right then. That way it costs less and my cat and I don't suffer as much.
I don't think people should lance abscesses unless they are desperate and have no other choice. If the abscess is very bad, you should skip the hot packs and seek medical attention immediately.
One of the warning signs that the abscess is really bad is when it stinks. That means gangrene, which can be fatal. You need medical attention, or it is time to switch to books like, "Where There Is No Doctor".
I would hope you will never let an abscess get to the stinking stage. Prevention is better than cures.