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 for infection.
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 naval) accouterment.
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