Disinfecting and caring for a piercing

If precautions are not taken, a piercing can be the source of potentially serious health issues. This is why it is important to be aware of the risks and know what type of care to provide to avoid contamination or any complications. 

Getting a piercing

Although piercings are trendy, they have been around for a very long time! It is believed that some ancient peoples, such as the Romans and the Mayas, were particularly fond of this form of body art. Today, ear piercing in young girls is also indicative of the body piercing fad.

Body piercing is not a very complicated procedure from a technical perspective. It simply entails piercing a hole with a needle and inserting a piece of jewelry, which prevents the skin from closing up again. This practice always requires optimal hygienic conditions and, of course, choosing the area of the body to be pierced, and the piece of jewelry. It is advisable for this type of procedure to be done by an experienced person.

It usually takes several weeks for the skin to heal completely, but it can sometimes take even longer.

The risk of viral contamination

The needles used for piercings may be contaminated if they have been in contact with the blood of people infected by a virus, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, which causes AIDS) or Hepatitis B or C. Therefore, needle sterilization is crucial.

The risk of bacterial infection

Bacterial contamination ranks among the most common complications of piercings. Because the skin is broken, this provides access to bacteria that can enter and cause infection. A bacterial infection can spread only to the skin around the piercing, to the areas of the body where the piercing is located or, in some rare cases, to the entire body.

Other complications

Other possible complications of a piercing include:

  • pain
  • trauma to the skin
  • excessive bleeding
  • allergies to the material that the piece of jewelry is made of or to the product used to disinfect or clean the piercing
  • keloid (excessive scar tissue)
  • oral health issues, if the piercing was done on the tongue or the lips

Some advice

Here is some advice intended to lower the risk of contamination, infection, and other complications.

  • Carefully choose the place and the person who will do your piercing. Opt for a reputable business that has been practising piercings for some time. Observe how the person works before making your decision. Try to find out more about the disinfecting process this person uses. Ask the necessary questions to check if these practices are adequate
  • Ensure that the person:
    • washes his/her hands adequately with soap and water and then dries them with a clean cloth before beginning to work
    • disinfects the area where the piercing will be done with an alcohol or iodine-based solution
    • uses a sterilized needle
    • Avoid making a hurried decision. You are likely to have your piercing for a good while, so there is no need for haste
    • Do not have a piercing done if:
      • you are pregnant
      • you are in a condition that affects your judgment (under the influence of alcohol, drugs or in emotional or psychological distress)
      • Keep the skin around the piercing very clean after the procedure
      • Clean the skin every day, but no more than twice a day
      • Avoid touching the area around the piercing, unless you are administering care
      • Be careful if someone tries to sell you disinfecting products to clean the piercing. Obtain as much information as possible. Keep in mind that the use of a saline solution or washing with a gentle soap and water remain your best options
      • See a doctor promptly if you notice or feel the following:
        • swelling, intense redness or feeling of heat in the area around the piercing
        • oozing or pus
        • unpleasant odour
        • fever or shivering
        • general malaise
        • any unexpected symptom

In the case of a minor infection, the use of an antibiotic cream (available without a prescription) can be beneficial. In more serious cases, it may be necessary to obtain a prescription for an oral antibiotic. Your pharmacist can inform you on how to make optimal use of your treatment.

Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about how to care for your piercing, what cleaning product to use, what medication to use to reduce pain, or about the prevention or treatment of infections. Your pharmacist can provide adequate information so your piercing experience is as satisfying as possible!

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Disinfecting and caring for a piercing

If precautions are not taken, a piercing can be the source of potentially serious health issues. This is why it is important to be aware of the risks and know what type of care to provide to avoid contamination or any complications. 
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