How To Treat Infected Piercings

Piercings will never go out of style. From earlobe and tongue piercings to belly button rings, there are many ways to express yourself by getting body jewelry. But as common and as popular as piercings are, it's important to take care of them properly to prevent infections.


According to a November 2005 issue of American Family Physician, the earlobe is the most common site for piercings and is susceptible to minor infections, allergic reactions, and keloids — thick, raised scars. Cartilage piercings take a longer time to heal and are even more vulnerable to infection. Navel piercings are also at high risk for infection due to the rubbing from waistbands and tightly-fitted clothes.

Symptoms of an infected piercing include swelling, a burning sensation, and pus-like discharge, according to Healthline. If left untreated for an extended period of time, an infection can worsen. Here's how you can prevent and treat infected piercings.

How to prevent infected piercings

The Mayo Clinic recommends never attempting to pierce your own skin or allowing someone who is not properly trained to give you a piercing; this minimizes the risks of getting an infection. If you have your piercing done at a facility like a tattoo shop, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind. They include making sure the facility is licensed to perform piercings, asking if the staffers are trained, observing whether or not they wear disposable gloves for each piercing, and ensuring only sterile disposable equipment is used. 


Once you have your piercing, there are good practices to adopt in order to take care of it, according to the Mayo Clinic: Be sure to clean the piercing site twice a day with soap and water, avoid touching it or playing with it excessively, and refrain from going into hot tubs, swimming pools, and other bodies of water until the piercing is fully healed. To prevent your piercing from closing, be sure to keep your jewelry in at all times.

How to treat infected piercings at home

If despite your best efforts you do end up with an infection, you may be able to treat it at home if it's minor. According to Healthline, wash your hands and clean the infected area with sterile saline, not alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Continue with this regimen twice a day until your infection improves.


Signs of a major infection include chills, swelling at the piercing site, and discharge. If you experience any of those, or symptoms worsen rather than improve after home treatment, seek help from a healthcare provider. Some types of infections require prescription antibiotics or more advanced treatment. If you're worried about your hole closing, don't be. While a study published in StatPearls recommends jewelry be taken out when an infection develops, a medical professional will likely use a technique called a loose loop suture in the piercing site to keep the hole open while the infection is being treated.

If you care for your piercing properly right from the start, infections are less likely to occur or will be minor enough to treat at home.