Acute Care: Injuries and Illnesses
BODY PIERCING INFECTIONS
Pierced areas, especially sensitive areas like the navel, can get infected
months and even years after they were pierced, though infections most
often occur very shortly after the time of piercing, as that is when the
portal door is wide open. Local skin reactions may also be caused by an
allergy to the jewelry material. Jewelry often contains brass plating,
which can cause allergic reactions or infection. It is recommended that
you use only surgical-grade stainless steel or solid 14-karat yellow
gold, niobium or titanium.
Navel piercing are among the most difficult to heal, and complete
healing can take as long as two years. Things like stress, poor diet,
illness, or poor quality jewelry can prolong the healing time.
Multivitamins (including vitamin C and zinc), clean clothes and bedding,
good nutrition and exercise can facilitate healing and reduce your risk
If you accidentally damage a healed pierce, you can substantially set
back the healing process, and become much more vulnerable to infection.
Navel pierces are easily damaged by being caught on the waistbands or
belts of clothing.
To aid healing and combat infection, it is very important to keep the
pierce clean. The pierce should be washed twice a day, but no more than
that unless dirt or sweat has gotten into it. Too much cleansing may
undermine the body's natural ability to ward off infection. Remember to
always wash your hands before touching the pierce.
Apply a salt solution (1/2 tsp. sea salt to one cup water) to the pierce
for 3-4 minutes in order to soak off dried material that could cause
internal damage. Clean the pierce with soap containing antibacterial
agents. Apply the soap directly to the jewelry and rotate it through the
pierce for one minute. Rinse thoroughly, making sure that there is no
soap residue left in the pierce. Pat dry and apply moisturizer to the
skin around the pierce.
Avoid soaps or moisturizers that are strongly scented or contain animal
fats. Also avoid disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. To
treat infection, apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment to the
pierce. Remove all excess ointment to make sure that the pierce is
well-ventilated. Application of warm compresses may also soothe the
irritated pierce. Severe infections may require oral antibiotics, which
must be prescribed by your doctor.
If you do develop an infection, it is usually characterized by swelling,
redness, a yellow-green pus-like discharge, and a sensitivity to touch.
An allergic reaction is differentiated by a burning sensation, gaping
skin around the pierce (as though it is trying to pull away from the
metal), and a clear yellow, rather than yellow-green discharge. In the
case of an allergy, the jewelry material should be promptly changed.
In the case of infection, it may be best to leave the jewelry in to
ensure proper drainage and to prevent the formation of an abscess. It is
essential that you see a clinician right away, especially if you are
additionally experiencing fevers or abdominal pain.
So getting pierced doesn't have to sink you. With proper maintenance,
your pierce can be a safe and permanent addition to your navel (or
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