After having a piercing, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. Your piercer will give you aftercare advice for the type of piercing you have.
However, many piercers advise gently cleaning new piercings with a saline (sea salt water soak) solution twice a day, preferably after washing or bathing.
You can do this by submerging the area in a clean jug or bowl containing a saline solution (1/4 teaspoon of sea salt per egg cup or shot glass of warm water) for a few minutes at a time.
Alternatively, you can wet a clean cloth or gauze in the solution and apply it as a warm compress.
This can help to soften any discharge and allow you to clean the entry and exit points of the piercing with a cotton bud or clean tissue. Once the discharge is removed or softened, the jewellery can be gently moved so as to work a little warm water through the piercing. When you have finished, make sure you are careful to dry the area with a fresh piece of paper towel or kitchen roll.
Not all experts agree that new piercings should be regularly cleaned in this way, as it involves fiddling with the piercing and getting it wet, which could actually increase the risk of infection if the saline solution is not strong enough. Don’t overclean your piercing, as this can irritate the skin and delay healing.
Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap before touching or washing your piercing, and make sure that any clothing and bedding that may come into contact with the area around the piercing is clean.
If you get an infection
If your piercing becomes infected, the surrounding skin may be red and swollen. It will probably hurt when you touch it and may produce a yellow or green discharge.
If you have a fever or any of the above symptoms, see your GP immediately. A delay in treatment can result in a serious infection.
Leave your jewellery in, unless your doctor tells you to take it out. This will allow proper drainage and may prevent a painful collection of pus (abscess) from forming.
In many cases, the infection can be treated without losing the piercing. Minor infections may be treated with antibiotic cream, and a more serious infection may need antibiotic tablets. Your doctor can give advice on which treatment is best for you.
Before an operation
You usually need to remove your body piercing before you go into hospital for an operation, as this can help prevent unwanted bacteria being brought into the hospital.