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Body piercings are our favorite fashion statement, but the fact remains that undergoing a new piercing is an act of wounding your body. As a wound, it is susceptible to that scary word: infection.

Of all the piercing complications, infection is the most common. This is partially because piercings interrupt scabbing, which is a critical step in healing to avoid infection. When you receive a minor scrape, your body will immediately start clotting the blood so that it can put a protective layer over the open wound to keep out harmful bacteria. In a piercing, you want to keep the wound open so it heals a fistula (the piercing hole). This leaves your new piercing vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria.

Since it’s so easy to contract an infection in a new piercing, it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and treatments so that you can avoid nasty complications like scarring, necrosis, or even (in extremely rare cases) hospitalization or death.

Here’s everything you need to know if you think you’re getting a piercing infection.

What are the symptoms of an infected piercing?

Believe it or not, it’s actually kind of tricky determining whether a new piercing is infected or just exhibiting the normal signs of a healing hole in your body. The symptoms of an infection are really symptoms of natural healing in overdrive.

In general, here’s what’s normal with a healing piercing:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • thin white or clear discharge
  • pain

Depending on your body and how sensitive you are, these symptoms can feel minor or severe, but they’re generally nothing to be concerned about for the first few weeks of a piercing. 

Much of the tenderness in the early days of your piercing is a result of your body’s effort to keep the wound clear of bacteria. Swelling and redness occur when blood is rushed to the area to bring nutrients that encourage healing while the clear discharge works to flush germs from the body.

woman sick on couch

Similar to when you have a cold, your body will let you know that something isn’t right.

When your piercing becomes infected, your body kicks into gear to clean the infection out. This is why the majority of the symptoms of piercing infections match natural healing, but in excess.

So what does an infected piercing feel like? Here’s what to watch for:

  • numbness or tingling in the pierced area
  • excessive bleeding (you should NEVER be dripping or bleeding through a bandage)
  • the skin around the piercing is hot to the touch
  • prolonged swelling (more than a few days is generally unusual)
  • excessive pain (most piercings will stop hurting after the first week or two)
  • increasing redness in the area
  • thick white, green, or yellow discharge
  • fever
  • chills
  • excessive sweating
  • shaking
  • swollen lymph nodes

You’ll likely be able to tell when your piercing has crossed into infection territory; your body does a good job of notifying you when something is wrong. However, if you’re unsure, talk to your piercer.

The Dangers of an Infected Piercing

Infections are nothing to trifle with. While very few piercing infections lead to hospitalization, it has happened, so you must be careful. If it progresses too far, it could lead to limb amputation or even death, so it’s best to get on top of your infection when it only requires minor treatment. You don’t want your new cartilage piercing to turn into a warning for other new piercees.

Beyond the ultra scary stuff, piercing infections are unsightly, and they can lead to scarring or piercing rejection. Even a minor infection could mean the end of your new piercing, so if only for the sake of your new style, infections are something to take seriously.

What to do when your piercing is infected

Luckily, if you catch the infection early enough, home treatments should clear the infection, and you won’t need to spend time and money at the doctor.

If you’re concerned that you are developing an infection, simply increase your aftercare practices. If you haven’t been conducting saline or sea salt baths, start doing so in order to flush out the piercing. Make sure that you keep the area clean, and conduct a cleanse 2 – 3 times a day. It’s important to note that there is such a thing as too much cleaning, and you can irritate the piercing, actually making the infection worse, so be wary.

man washes hands

Keep your hands clean when you touch your piercing and conduct excellent aftercare practices, and your infection should clear.

Do not use disinfectants that aren’t approved for piercing aftercare. This includes ointments and other chemicals that are usually safe for minor wounds. These can irritate your piercing and encourage infection.

Do not take out your jewelry. The jewelry helps the infection to drain, and if you take out your jewelry, the piercing hole could close, trapping the infection and making it worse.

Beyond cleaning the piercing, add probiotics and other infection-fighting foods to your diet to help clear out the infection. Your body needs nutrients in order to run at its best, so make sure that you’re giving it what it needs to succeed.

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If the infection still hasn’t cleared up, talk to your piercer about other methods. If the infection seems serious, then you should seek out medical attention. More serious symptoms include fever, nausea, pain, and red lines coming from the infection.

Most piercing infections are minor, painful inconveniences, but if you keep an eye on them, boost your aftercare regimine, and get help when you need it, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue clearing the infection. However, you must treat it seriously and understand that if left to fester, it could lead to nightmarish complications.

Choose quality starter jewelry, opt for a reputable piercer, and keep your piercing clean, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t see happy healing.

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Quality jewelry is key to avoiding irritation that could lead to infection in a new piercing. Start your new piercing right with some adorable 14k gold jewelry.

6 Comments

  • Smurfed

    Reply
    January 21, 2018at10:06 pm

    My ears were pierced a while ago and today makes the day (6weeks) when I can take them out or switch them. They felt healed before so Ive been taking them out to clean them with no problems. But today when I woke up I noticed my left earring was tight so I thought I’d loosen it up. It accidentally fell out and didnt think anything of it since I usually take them out to clean them, but noticed it was infected when it came out. Green pus, swelling, redness. Could it be infected because I slept on it wrong after 6weeks? What should I do since my infected piercing came out??

    • Me

      Reply
      March 30, 2018at10:39 pm

      Soak it with a sea salt soak 20 mins twice a day until it gets back to normal. Helped me when my belly ring was infected. And don’t touch it

  • jayci woods

    Reply
    January 26, 2018at5:23 pm

    the jewelry i had in my belly button piercing caused it to hurt so i took it out to put my original one back in and it won’t go in and i’ve cleaned it and stuff has come out but now nothing is it just hurts to try to put in and idk what to do.

    • Anonymous

      Reply
      February 13, 2018at9:33 pm

      Same here !!

  • Roop

    Reply
    March 28, 2019at1:06 am

    Hey, so I had infected piercing, so I went to emergency, doctor cut my earring but my ear was swollen. And suggest me antibiotic. It’s been almost a week. How long it can take to heal?

    • Jessica Karam

      Reply
      March 31, 2019at10:28 pm

      Hi Roop,

      Healing times vary based on the person and the degree of the infection. Follow up with your doctor for a more accurate answer.

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