Body piercing is very popular with both men and women. Many areas of the body are used for piercing. Most people who have piercings do not develop any problems.
The ears are the most common piercing site. Most of the time, an earlobe piercing heals without any problems. Piercing other areas of the ear usually involves piercing the cartilage that gives the ear shape. Piercing ear cartilage creates a wound that is harder to clean, takes longer to heal, and is more likely to become infected than earlobe piercing.
Other popular sites include the mouth and tongue, nose, eyebrow, navel, and genital area. Each body piercing site has its own normal healing time and its own set of potential problems. Home treatment can help speed healing of the wound and prevent problems. At first, a body piercing site may be slightly swollen. A small amount of blood or fluid may drain from the site.
Common problems that develop from body piercing include:
If a sterile technique is not used, there is a chance of spreading diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Blood infections (sepsis) can occur if a sterile technique is not used.
You can reverse a body piercing fairly easily by removing the jewelry, which allows the hole to close. If you have not yet made a decision about piercing, it may be helpful to learn about making the choice to have a piercing and how to prevent problems.
If you have a problem with a body piercing site, check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:
A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.
If proper technique and clean instruments are not used, there is a chance of getting an infectious disease when you get a tattoo or body piercing.
Symptoms of an infectious illness may include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most body piercing wounds can be cared for at home. If you received written instructions from the person who did the body piercing, follow those instructions carefully. This will help prevent problems and promote healing.
If you did not receive instructions for care of the piercing site, try the following:
How fast the wound heals depends on the piercing site. The wound may take 4 to 6 weeks or longer to heal. Some sites may take up to a year to heal fully.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Do what you can to help prevent problems. Think about the following guidelines and information before making your decision to pierce a part of your body.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
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