Although it is rare for a new body piercing to require medical attention, it can happen, and it is important to know what to look for. Usually the cause of infection is from bacteria present on the surface of the skin that was not properly prepared before piercing. Bacterial infections can also be caused by unclean tools or body jewelry that are not sterilized prior to use. A certified body piercer is required to use only sterile needles, tools, and body jewelry (contained in sterile pouches). If you are unsure if your piercer is using sterilized items, feel free to ask if you can see them before you get pierced. (If the piercer balks at this request or cannot produce pouched items for your inspection, leave immediately!)
The other reason an infection may occur can be from either improper (or infrequent) cleaning of the piercing, or from a reaction to a type of material present in the initial body jewelry. In a new body piercing, it is important to use only non-reactive materials such as; 316L surgical grade stainless steel, titanium (not plated), or PTFE (a type of teflon material).
It is normal during the healing process of a body piercing to experience some swelling and redness of the area. It is important to not remove the jewelry since the jewelry during the healing process, as it acts as a natural drain for the fluids that cause swelling. However, if there is excessive redness, extreme swelling, or you experience extreme tenderness of the area that radiates over a half inch from the pierced area, it could be the onset of cellulitis. If this occurs, antibiotics can usually treat the infection. However, if the infection advances beyond this stage and produces symptoms of fever or body aches around the pierced area, medical attention should be sought immediately from a doctor or hospital.
Although the vast majority of body piercings heal without complications, it is important to be aware of anything unusual that may be going on during the healing process. If you see any signs of possible infection appear around your body piercing, or if you think your piercing is taking too long to heal, don’t hesitate to go see your body piercer to have them check it out. Good body piercers make time for their clients no matter what and are genuinely concerned about their safety. It’s always better to be sure that something is normal than to allow an infection to develop.