User Reviewed

How to Treat Infected Piercings

Two Methods:Preventing Infected PiercingsTreating Infected Piercings

If any of your piercings look red or swollen, it may be infected. Infection is common after home piercings, but any piercing can lead to a nasty infection within several days if treated improperly. If you keep your new piercing clean and moisturized for the first few weeks you can usually avoid problems, but sometime infections occur no matter how careful you are.

Method 1
Preventing Infected Piercings

  1. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 1
    Clean the piercing frequently. Using warm water and soap, apply a washcloth to gently wash out your new piercing. Keeping dirt, grime, and bacteria away from the wound should be enough to prevent infection.
    • Be sure to clean the piercing after exercise, going outside, cooking, or cleaning.
    • Rubbing alcohol, though it kills bacteria, will dry out your skin and potentially cause an infection.
  2. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 2
    Rinse your piercing with saline solution twice a day. While you could buy saline at the piercing parlor, you can also make it at home with only 2 ingredients. Mix 1/8 tablespoon of non-iodized sea salt into a cup of distilled water and stir until it dissolves. Submerge your piercing in the saltwater, or soak a clean cotton swab in the water and apply it to the piercing for 20 minutes twice a day.
  3. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 3
    Keep your hands clean. Dirty hands are the number one cause of infection, so always wash your hands before touching or treating your piercing.
  4. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 4
    Avoid tight clothing around the piercing. If you have a piercing that is constantly rubbing on your clothes, wear looser clothing. This is especially true for navel, genital, nipple, or other body piercings.
  5. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 5
    Refrain from pools, hot tubs, or the gym for 2-3 days after the piercing. These places are hot-spots of moisture and bacteria that commonly lead to infections. Your piercing is an open wound and it will absorb bacteria much more readily then unbroken skin.
  6. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 6
    Know that all new piercings become inflamed for several days. Don’t freak out if you see redness or soreness in the first few days after a piercing. This is your body’s normal response to a puncture. Inflammation is common and can be easily treated with an ice-pack and ibuprofen. If the inflammation lasts for more than 3-5 days, however, you may be developing an infection.
  7. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 7
    Remove the jewelry if you are worried about an infection. If you are draining pus or have serious pain or swelling, remove the piercing and clean the infected area off with soap and water. However, do not remove your piercing unless you have an infection, as this can make it impossible to return the jewelry without another piercing appointment.[1]
    • Clean your jewelry in hot, soapy water and return it if you only have light redness or swelling. This may prevent and infection from ever forming.

Method 2
Treating Infected Piercings

  1. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 8
    Know the symptoms of an infected piercing. Infections occur most frequently after home piercings or mistakes made during the piercing. If you feel any of the following symptoms, you might have an infected piercing:
    • Pain or soreness
    • Excessive redness
    • Swelling
    • Puss, blood, or fluid discharge
  2. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 9
    Don’t wait to start treatment. Infections can progress rapidly if not cared for, and most infections can be wiped out quickly if they are properly cleaned early and often. Call your piercing parlor with any questions. When in doubt, always clean your piercing with warm water and soap.
  3. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 10
    Rinse your ear with saline solution. You can buy this simple antiseptic at most piercing parlors, but it is easy to make at home as well. Mix 1/8 tablespoon of non-iodized sea salt into a cup of water and stir until dissolved. Submerge your piercing in the water, or use a clean cotton swab to press it against your ear for 20 minutes twice a day.
  4. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 11
    Apply an antibiotic to the pierced area. Use over-the-counter creams like polymyxin B sulfate (Polysporin) or bacitracin to fight off bacteria in your infection. Apply the ointment lightly to the wound with a Q-tip or cotton swab twice a day.
    • If a skin rash or itching develops, stop using the ointment. The rash may be caused by an allergic reaction.
  5. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 12
    Apply a cold pack to help reduce swelling or bruising. An ice pack will lower swelling around your piercing, which can help fight off infection. Never apply ice directly to the skin, as this can cause tissue damage. Put a layer of fabric or a cloth towel between the cold pack and the skin.
  6. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 13
    Visit or call your piercer. They will have advice for you based on the piercing and symptoms. Oftentimes they will repeat the post-piercing cleaning process, which can help quickly eliminate an infection.
    • For simple infections, the piercer will likely give you treatment suggestions.
    • For serious infections, the piercer should send you to a doctor with detailed instructions about the wound, piercing, and potential solutions.
  7. Image titled Treat Infected Piercings Step 14
    Go to the doctor for infections lasting more than 48 hours or fever. Your doctor will most likely prescribe something to treat the infection, usually an oral antibiotic. If you see no improvement or your symptoms worsen after treating the infection at home, you should immediately see a doctor. Symptoms to watch out for include:
    • Muscle or joint pain
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Nausea or vomiting[2]


  • Don't remove jewelry from infected piercings. If you do it then it would heal with the infection still trapped under the skin, making it much harder to treat.
  • Do sea salt soaks at least once a day. Any more than twice will dry out your piercing.
  • For surface piercings such as a nipple piercing, mix sea salt and hot water in a hot glass and put it on the piercing allowing it to soak in the salt water for 5-10 minutes.
  • Always wash your hands before touching the piercing.
  • Apply a hot compress for twenty minute intervals to help alleviate swelling and allow the infection to drain.
  • Even if you are not worried about an infection, cleaning your new piercing often will help the site heal properly.
  • Act fast with any infection, as they can spread quickly.
  • You may want to consider only wearing real gold and silver earrings. Any other kinds (surgical steel, etc.) may be the cause of the problem.


  • Don't take out the piercing.
  • See a doctor if you feel extreme pain or a fever, as you will likely need medication to fight off the infection.
  • Go to the doctors right away.

Things You'll Need

  • Sea salt,
  • 1 cup of water,
  • Piercing,
  • Spray or cleaner your piercer gave to you. Be sure not to over use it.

Article Info

Categories: Tattoos and Piercing