How to Know If You Have a Piercing Infection March 4, 2020 – Posted in: Informative – Tags: , , ,

The end goal of piercing aftercare is happy healing. The act of piercing your skin is nothing more than inflicting a wound upon yourself, and like any wound, it’s susceptible to attack from harmful microorganisms looking to make a home in your body.

Infections are easy to avoid, especially if you commit to proper aftercare practices. The key to steering clear of infection is understanding what they are and how to fight them.

Before you get any piercing, it’s important to know how to take care of it. Here’s a quick guide to infections, how to avoid them, and how to treat them in your new piercing.

What is an infection?

Beyond the gaze of the human eye, entire systems of living creatures share the world around us. Many of these microorganisms help sustain our lives, but when the nasty ones enter our bodies, they can wreak havoc.

This is called an infection. An infection occurs when a foreign, harmful pathogen decides to become a squatter in your body. Infected wounds are susceptible to side effects such as scarring, lengthened healing times, and even more extreme symptoms like tissue death.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to help your body heal. It’s important, therefore, to conduct aftercare practices that reduce the risk of an infection and keep an eye open for any infection symptoms so that you can aid in the attack against infection.

Signs of an infection

Your immune system acts as a white knight when it comes to getting rid of an infection. When it detects that intruders have entered your system, it calls its soldiers together to kill the invaders and rescue your body from harm.

hand holds thermometer showing a fever

Fever can be a clear sign that your body is fighting off an infection.

When your immune system goes to war, you’re going to feel the effects. Many of the beginning signs of an infection are actually your body’s defense mechanisms in action. This is also why it can be easy to confuse an infection with natural healing, especially in the first days after you’ve received your piercing.

You might develop a fever. Your body bumps up the heat in order to stimulate certain immune cells that will jump into action to help fight the infection.

The skin around your piercing might swell. Often (but not always), swelling is your body’s response to infection threats. Increased blood flow brings white blood cells to the wound to fight foreign microorganisms. As a result, the skin will swell and turn red. This could be a sign of natural healing, since one of the body’s first reactions to the wound includes rushing blood to the wound site. However, prolonged swelling or swelling in excess could be a sign of a larger issue, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.

The skin around your piercing might get hot. Similar to developing a fever, this is often caused by your body raising the heat to stimulate infection-fighting immune cells.

It will be tender to the touch. Pain is your body’s indicator that something is wrong. Even if the tenderness is only slight, listen to what your body is telling you. It could be warning you of an imminent problem.

Your piercing excretes green, yellow, or white liquid or pus. Clear or even slightly white liquid is a normal part of healing. The liquid is meant to clear out harmful bacteria, dead skin cells, and everything that shouldn’t be there. When it turns colors, it’s a sign that there’s too much stuff that your body is trying to clean out, like infectious bacteria. Weird colors are a clear sign that you either need to take steps to help your body fight the infection or visit a medical professional.

If you catch the infection in your new piercing early enough, symptoms shouldn’t progress beyond the above. However, if left untreated, you could see more serious infection signs, such as a red line following your veins from the infection or sepsis (blood poisoning).

The good news is that real, serious infection is actually quite rare, and if you’re taking care of your piercing properly, you shouldn’t see infection at all. However, it’s important to note the symptoms, and you need to understand that infection can happen, and in extremely rare cases, it can cause serious complications. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How to prevent an infection in your new piercing

Since the piercing world tends to be associated with a more rebellious nature, it’s easy to assume that you can stick a safety pin or sewing needle into your skin and everything will be okay. However, you should think of your piercing more as a medical procedure than an act of rebellion.

Sticking a needle through your skin for aesthetic purposes goes against everything your body was designed for, so you need to set your body up for success by first choosing an experienced piercer. Check their reviews, ask for their portfolio, and scope out their studio beforehand. Their studio should look and smell clean, and any instruments they use should come in sealed bags or they should sterilize their tools in an autoclave immediately before piercing. Think about it this way: if your dentist came out with questionable tools, you wouldn’t let them anywhere near your mouth. Treat your piercing the same way.

a woman washes her face in a sink

Simply keeping the piercing clean, adhering to aftercare practices, and rinsing away contaminants can greatly reduce your risk of infection.

Once you’ve gotten pierced by a reputable piercer, make sure to adhere to proper aftercare practices. Clean your piercing 2 – 3 times a day by spraying each side of the piercing, then carefully wiping them with a Q-tip or gauze. This is especially important during the early days of healing. For on-the-spot treatments, carry a travel-sized aftercare solution with you.

Keep in mind that although infections are most likely to happen in the first few weeks of healing, they can happen at any time. Keep up with aftercare practices until your piercer says that you’re fully healed. In many piercings, the piercing will appear healed before it has completely healed internally, so it’s a good idea to have a professional look at it before stopping aftercare practices.

Treatments of piercings infections

If you’re concerned that you might have an infection, it’s best to err on the side of caution and talk to a medical professional. When in doubt, we always recommend seeking help over self-diagnosis and treatment.

If you aren’t sure if your piercing is simply irritated or might actually be infected, seeing a doctor is your best bet. If you can’t see a doctor right away, consult with your piercer as soon as possible. Often, piercing complications are simply irritations that a little extra attention can fix. If you are seeing those surefire signs of infection—green pus, fever, extreme pain or swelling—see a doctor immediately.

DO NOT use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other chemicals often used to disinfect wounds. These products use chemicals that can irritate the piercing. They can also encourage complications like piercing rejection, so you must stick to saline solution and other products created specifically for piercing aftercare.

Your new piercing faces many foes during healing, but infections can be the most dangerous. While infections are fairly uncommon, they typically occur because of poor aftercare practices, so it’s up to you to protect your piercing from harmful bacteria. Keep your new piercing clean, maintain aftercare practices throughout the entire healing process, and find a piercer that you can trust during piercing and after, and you should be able to keep infections at bay.

« Piercing Infection: A Beginner’s Guide to Causes and Treatment
My Very First Body Jewelry: The Best Jewelry for New Piercings »