The Ultimate Guide to Piercing Infections & Complications: Infections & Abcesses

The Ultimate Guide to Piercing Infections & Complications: Infections & Abcesses

Localized Infection or self-limiting minor infections will more often than not, clear up on its own if kept clean & treated with sea salt soaks.

Identifying Minor Localized Infection

  • Skin is pinkish or reddish, swollen, and warm to the touch
  • Localized tenderness
  • A small amount of pus
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild odor similar to rotting potatoes

    You can have an infection even if you don’t have all of the symptoms above, or having several of them doesn’t guarantee that your piercing is infected. Some redness, swelling, and tenderness are normal in fresh piercings, especially during the first two weeks.

    What to Do for a Minor Localized Infection
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to diminish swelling and tenderness
  • Keep the area clean and wash it twice daily with a fragrance-free soap, rinse well, and dry with clean, disposable paper products.
  • Perform mild saline soaks and/or apply warm, moist compresses to encourage drainage and relieve discomfort
  • Apply topical over-the-counter antibiotic cream or gel (not ointment) according to package instructions.

See a doctor right away if you experience the following:

  • Your symptoms last for a week or suddenly worsen
  • You experience a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or disorientation.
  • The piercing is very painful, swollen, has red or purple streaks emanating from it, or there is a loss of movement or sensitivity in the area.
  • You have pus discharge that is greenish, yellowish, or grayish
  • Strong odour of rotting

    For treatment of localized piercing infections we recommend contacting a pharmacist or your doctor. Never self medicate with left over prescription drugs or medication prescribed to someone else. Never stop antibiotics before completing the full recommended course.


An Abscess is a pocket of infection containing pus and blood trapped under the skin, surrounded by inflamed tissue.

This type of infection typically occurs after a piercing has healed. An abscess can be created when jewelry is removed from an infected piercing, thus eliminating the pathway for pus and matter to leave the body, trapping the infection inside.

Identifying an Abscess

  • Tenderness, pain, inflammation, heat, and swelling at the site of a hard localized mass (feels like a marble under the skin). In the case of nipples, the duct system can result in an abscess forming inches away from your piercing.
  • Redness or darkening of skin (if the abscess is closer to the surface, rather than very deep underneath).
  • Worsens over time and may cause nausea, fever, and chills if severe.

    To treat a minor abscess
  • Sea Salt soaks or application of warm-to-hot moist compresses might cause spontaneous drainage.

Sea Salt + Water Soak/Compress

◦ Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to one cup of boiling water. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.

◦ When the salt water has cooled slightly (you want it to be as hot as possible without burning your skin), dip a clean cotton pad into the cup.

◦ Hold the soaked cotton pad against the bump for two minutes. Do NOT take your jewelry out, avoid pulling or pushing it around.

◦ Repeat the salt soak twice a day until the bump has disappeared.
If the abscess does not drain within forty-eight hours, or if symptoms worsen, a visit to the doctor is urgent. Infection can spread to deeper tissue or the bloodstream if untreated.

If you have any of the following, contact a doctor immediately

  • red or purple streaks in the skin surrounding the piercing
  • a sudden fever
  • nausea, weakness, fainting

An incision to drain the abscess is commonly needed and antibiotics alone will not necessarily resolve an abscess. It usually must be cleared out as well. In fact, doctors sometimes drain an abscess without prescribing antibiotics.

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