Body piercings have become commonplace and are usually routine. However, they are still an open wound, especially when recently performed, so it’s possible for them to become painful or infected, especially if they’re not properly cared for.
Swelling or bruising are to be expected – applying an ice pack (with a thin layer of cloth between it and your skin) to the area can help reduce both.
Keeping the piercing, the jewelry, and the area around both clean is essential: wash it with soap and warm water a couple of times a day – once in the morning and once at night, for example – but avoid using fluids like hydrogen peroxide, which may react adversely with the metal, depending on the type. A saline solution (warm water and salt) is recommended by some piercers as a good solution. Be sure to dry the spot thoroughly – lingering moisture can cause problems. Antibiotic ointments most likely don’t help speed healing, but if you do use one, apply lightly and stop using it if redness, itchiness, or a rash develop.
Tight clothing or coverings can restrict and irritate the piercing, so stick to loose, flowing clothing in the area surrounding the piercing for at least a week.
Reputable piercers will provide you with a list of instructions for caring for your new piercing, particularly if it’s in a more unusual area. Some doctors will also perform piercings (although usually only in the ears). Depending on the site of the piercing, healing can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, and some soreness or swelling is normal. How do you differentiate between normal healing or an infection? Pain that is severe or does not fade at all can be a troublesome symptom. If you notice pus or other discharge, especially yellow or green, it may be infected – clean it well but leave the piercing in so it can drain properly, unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.
Most painful or infected piercings can be treated at home, but if the pain is severe, the infection doesn’t respond to home treatment or spreads beyond the piercing site, or if you develop a fever, consult your doctor.