If you get any type of body piercing, you must make sure that you follow the right aftercare instructions. Failing to take care of your body piercing properly can leave you at risk of developing complications. In extreme cases, life-threatening sepsis or toxic shock syndrome can develop because of an infection at the site of an ear or body piercing.
Taking appropriate aftercare steps will help to reduce the risks that you face after any piercing.
Getting your piercing done
Reducing your infection risk actually starts before you get your body piercing done. You should only get a piercing done at a licensed parlour, never use an unlicensed piercer.
Always choose a parlour which uses disposable sharps instead of a piercing gun. These guns are very hard to clean properly, and therefore bacteria may be introduced to the wound straight away. Piercing guns also exert sudden high pressure onto the piercing area. This actually causes excessive damage to the soft tissue around the piercing site, which puts the whole area at increased risk.
To reduce the risk of infection, you should carefully wash the area with a saline solution. Salt water will help to reduce bacteria levels and is more hygienic than unsalted tap water. You can also use medicated antibacterial soap which should be available from your local pharmacy. If you advise them what you need the soap for, they should be able to give you something that meets your needs.
Dry the area carefully once you have applied the cleaning solution. Do not use rubbing alcohol to clean the area, because this can take all of the moisture out of your skin as it dries. This will irritate the area and can prolong the healing process. You should only clean the area twice per day, because over-cleaning can also irritate the area.
Try to keep your hands off of your piercing as much as you can. It can be tempting to touch the piercing or fiddle around with it because it is a new and unusual part of your body; however this should be avoided whenever possible. Moving the piercing or “turning” it can reopen the wound or prolong the healing process.
Touching the area of the piercing is also likely to transfer bacteria to the area, meaning that you are more likely to develop an infection. In addition to transferring bacteria to the site of the piercing, you may also inadvertently transfer your skin’s essential oils away from where they are needed.
Understand your body
Remember that not all piercings will behave in the same way. Piercings that go through cartilage will normally take longer to heal than piercings which only go through thin, fleshier areas.
Taking a long time to heal does not necessarily mean that there is a problem with the piercing. You should not be concerned or remove the piercing unless there are other signs and symptoms of an infection.
Keep it simple
You should continue to wear simple “starter” jewellery until the pierced area has completely healed. This jewellery should normally be made of a non-reactivate metal.
Nickel jewellery is best avoided for a starter item, as many people find that the oils and natural acids in their skin cause a reaction. This could irritate the healing wound. Although starter jewellery is often plain, you should avoid changing to fancier items until the hole is complete healed.
Jewelled items or items with an intricate design are much harder to clean and sterilise properly. Dirt and fluids can easily get trapped underneath stones that are set in jewellery, and this is likely to encourage bacterial growth. This can cause recurring infection.
Keep the area dry
Make sure that you dry the area properly if it gets wet. Warm moist areas are breeding grounds for bacteria, so drying the area will reduce your infection risk. Take the time to dry the site thoroughly after you have taken a bath or shower.
If the pierced area is likely to become sweaty, you should check it regularly to avoid the area becoming overly damp.
It is best to avoid swimming in a pool if you can, because pool water may be under or over-treated. An under treated pool may contain certain bacteria, whereas an over-treated pool could include an abundance of chemicals which could irritate your wound.
Seek medical help
If you spot any signs of infection, you should speak to the pharmacy to see if they have any over-the-counter creams or ointments which will help.
If the infection continues to get worse or if it does not start to clear up within a couple of days then you should speak to your GP. Infections from piercing sites can develop into sepsis or blood poisoning if they are left untreated. This is why it is important that you pay attention to your body in the period after you have had a piercing or any other body modification.