Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, board-certified infectious disease physician and senior scholar at John Hopkins University, stresses that “any time something breaches the skin—a key component of the immune system—there will be a risk of infection. Any type of pollutant, whether it’s from your sweat, unclean water, or dirty fingers, can easily be the culprit. Meticulous hygiene is important to diminish this risk in the early days after a piercing.” You must wash your piercing twice daily with a salt solution and clean cotton swab to prevent bacterial growth and infection.
Many people mistake signs of healing for an infection. You may experience persistent redness around the belly button, soreness, or pain that is simply a symptom of healing. Below, we will discuss the signs of an infected belly button piercing versus a healing one and learn how to treat an infection.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your piercing is infected or just irritated. Pay close attention because an infection gets worse, whereas a little time may soothe an irritation. Proper aftercare should prevent any problems, but some people are just more prone to complications than others.
If you have one of the clear signs of infection, you should start treating immediately to prevent further complications like abscess formation. If you think your piercing might be infected, do NOT remove the jewelry. Doing so can block in the infection, causing an abscess beneath the skin. You want to have proper drainage so that the infection can heal.
Below are the instructions provided by Dr. Ryan Neinstein, Plastic Surgeon MD, on how to properly treat a belly button piercing infection. Follow these instructions closely and carefully.
If you think that your belly button piercing is infected, don’t ignore the symptoms and hope the infection goes away on its own. You want to treat it before it develops into an abscess or spreads to your abdomen.
As you can see from the photo, a healing belly button piercing will have redness and some crustiness that is concentrated around the area of the piercing only. If you have an infection, however, the redness will spread to the larger abdomen area; it will feel hot and painful, and there will be foul-smelling puss oozing out of the site of infection.
It is completely normal to feel pain during and after a navel piercing. You may also feel soreness for up to a year because this is how long it takes a belly piercing to fully heal.
However, if the pain gets worse over time and there are other accompanying symptoms, such as green or yellow discharge, a foul smell, or a burning sensation, then you may have an infection. Seek professional help right away before the infection spreads!
According to Dr. Neinstein, “In general, your piercing should heal by the 3–6 month mark, however, each person varies in the pace at which they heal. In some cases, a person may experience discomfort for up to one year. The key is to distinguish between discomfort and an actual infection.” In other words, a navel piercing may look healed after three to six weeks, but it can take six months to a year to fully heal, no matter how good it looks on the outside.
Because it takes six to 12 months for a navel piercing to fully heal, it is very common to experience redness, soreness/pain, and swelling for up to a year.Do not mistake these signs for an infection.
These signs should get better over a year, not worse. If irritation gets worse, then you either have an infection or an allergic reaction.
You may also experience itchiness, swelling, and redness if you’re suffering from an allergic reaction to the kind of metal in your jewelry.
If you’re having an allergic reaction, see your piercer immediately to have the jewelry replaced.
The best jewelry for a belly button piercing is going to be made of a hypoallergenic metal that is good for sensitive skin.
The best way to prevent an infection is to take good care of your new piercing from day one. Do not touch the navel area unless you are cleaning it, and always wash your hands before you start cleaning. Remember to use new cotton balls or swabs to gently wipe the area around your piercing, and then pat dry with a clean towel.
You can also prevent an infection by choosing a reputable professional piercer who uses a sanitized piercing needle rather than a piercing gun.
Wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Then soak a clean cotton swab with a salt solution (1 tsp. of sea salt and 5 oz. of warm water), and gently dab on the piercing area. Allow the area to dry completely before wearing clothes. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to clean as this will dry out and irritate the skin.
Follow these aftercare dos and don’ts to help your piercing heal faster.
If this is your first time getting a navel piercing, a good belly button jewelry to start off with is a 14-gauge titanium curved barbell ring. 14g is the standard size for most belly rings, titanium is the safest metal, and a curved barbell is the best for preventing infections because it sits closer to your body than other types of jewelry and is less likely to snag on clothes or move around a lot.
After you’ve fully healed, you can opt for more elaborate jewelry as shown in this gallery of different types of navel piercings.
Wait at least 6 months before changing your belly button ring. If you do it sooner, you will risk infection because the piercing is likely not fully healed. Some people report changing jewelry after 6-8 weeks with no infection, but this doesn’t mean it can’t happen. To be extra safe, wait at least 6 months.
To prevent an infection, make sure you go to a professional piercer at a reputable piercing shop.
Navel piercings are one of the most popular piercings for females, after the basic earlobe piercing, and are most common among youth between 12 and 18, but that doesn’t mean that middle-aged women can’t sport a navel ring.
Because this kind of piercing is quite common, there is a lot of information on the web about it, but not all of the information is accurate.
Before you get your piercing, do some research to make sure that you get the right information and the proper knowledge before you show up at the tattoo shop. If you are informed, you’ll find your healing time will be a breeze, and you’ll reduce any potential risks.
Belly button piercings are commonly placed on the upper rim of the navel, but they can also be placed on the bottom, left, and right rim.
Whatever the location, there are basic risks that should be considered.
The navel area is subject to sweating, bending, and irritation. Sitting, running, turning around, and other activities can irritate the piercing, as can tight clothes and activities that involve a lot of motion or contact.
If you want to get a navel piercing, make sure that you choose a professional body piercer. You also want to make sure that you know the proper aftercare processes so that you don’t irritate it.
Because an infection can be pretty serious, and something that shouldn’t be messed with, you want to be very careful. This is one of the main reasons that I recommend young teens not get a piercing without their parents’ permission.
If an infection develops, you will have to tell your parents, which will get you into bigger trouble because you went behind their back to do something you were told not to do.