How Should I Care for an Infected Piercing?

If a piercing becomes hot, or painful, it can be a sign that it is becoming infected.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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If you have an infected body piercing, you should immediately call your piercer and a doctor. Although self-care can resolve an infection at home, even mild infections can turn serious, and it is important to get the right treatment. If you care for an infected piercing entirely at home, you run the risk of missing a serious problem which could lead to septicemia or other unpleasant health conditions.

Preferably, of course, you should avoid allowing a piercing to get infected in the first place. If you get pierced when your immune system is healthy and follow aftercare instructions carefully, you can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Typical aftercare includes washing the site several times a day with an antibacterial or antimicrobial soap, using sea salt soaks to further reduce the risk of infection, and exposing the piercing to as much fresh air as possible. Some irritation is normal, as is a bit of discharge, especially in the first week.

If a piercing becomes hot, painful, and red, it can be a sign that it is becoming infected, especially if this is accompanied with a smelly, thick discharge. You can care for an infected piercing in the early stages by keeping it well-flushed with salt soaks, washing it carefully at least three times a day, and not handling it excessively. You may also want to call your piercer for recommendations, including a recommendation for a piercing-friendly doctor in case you require medical treatment.

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Sometimes, a mild infection can resolve with self-care at home within a few days. If the infection appears to be growing worse or it doesn't improve within four days, you should seek medical attention, because you probably need antibiotics. Always seek medical attention if you cannot see the piercing because the area is so swollen, or if you notice red, yellow, or green rays in the skin around the piercing; this suggests tissue necrosis.

When you go to a doctor to request care for an infected piercing, you should be able to tell the doctor when you were pierced, and which measures you have been using to care for the piercing at home. If possible, ask to have the piercing left in, because if the piercing is removed, it can trap the infection under the skin as the hole closes, thereby creating an abscess. A doctor will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics and he or she may treat infected piercing by anesthetizing the site and cleaning it especially thoroughly to remove dead and dying tissue.

Never be afraid to go to the doctor for an infected piercing, even if it is a self-piercing. The earlier you are seen to care for an infected piercing, the better the prognosis will be, even if you have to endure some criticism from the doctor. If you are especially concerned about a negative interaction, ask regional piercers and friends for recommendations, or use an online review site to find a doctor with generally positive commentary from pierced individuals.

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Discuss this Article

anon133673
Post 5

I've had my nose done for a while now, and all of a sudden it's red, and nasty green stuff is coming out of it. I think it's from me being suck. I'm not sure what to do, but I'm going try and keep it in and clean it.

pharmchick78
Post 4

I'd just like to remind people to think before you pierce -- any piercing has the potential to get infected, and this is especially true for places like belly button piercings, nipple piercings, and genital piercings. I've got nothing against piercings in general, but you really need to consider if getting an infection in that area is a risk you want to take.

So before you pierce, thing: is piercing my tragus/nose/eyebrow/anywhere else really that important? Does it mean enough to me to risk an infection?

naturesgurl3
Post 3

I got a lip piercing (a labret) about a month ago, and it's still really sore, and seems to be getting swollen. I haven't seen any pus or anything yet, but it hurts to touch it, and the skin around it is really sensitive -- like, I don't know if I could even take it out, it feels so painful.

Should I go to the doctor, or should I just wait and see? I'm just worried because I had a friend with a tongue piercing that got infected and she got really sick -- her tongue turned black and she had to take all kinds of drugs to get her back on her feet.

What should I do?

lightning88
Post 2

Piercing infections are the worst. My best friend got an eyebrow piercing, and she ended up having to take it out because it just kept getting infected over and over again.

Luckily she never had any too serious side effects, just soreness and a little pus. Guess that's just one more reason to buy high end piercing jewelry -- especially if you're getting a piercing in an area that is going to get a little sweaty or dirty, like a navel piercing or a "male" piercing. I can't even imagine how nasty an infection would be there. Keep your piercing rings clean, people!

dill1971
Post 1

I had a friend who had her nipples pierced about two months ago. About three weeks ago, the one on the right started getting very sore and looked infected. She finally had to go to the doctor and she was immediately put in the hospital.

It was so infected that they had to cut a large portion out and she had to be on IV antibiotics. She was in a lot of pain and was in the hospital for 6 days. The infection had gotten into her bloodstream and she was extremely ill.

Be very careful when getting body piercings and make sure that you take care of it and keep it clean.

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