Infected Body Piercing

A body piercing can get swollen and sore. This is often from an infection. The possible causes for this infection include:

  • Frequently touching the piercing with dirty hands

  • Piercing equipment wasn't sterile

  • Piercing jewelry was not sterile

  • Jewelry is rough and causes irritation of the pierced area

  • Piercing posts are too short or the clasp is pressed on too tightly

Mild infections can be treated at home as described below. For more serious infections, you may need oral antibiotics.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your piercing:

  • Wash your hands before touching your piercing.

  • Leave the jewelry in place unless told otherwise by your healthcare provider.

  • You may use over-the-counter medicine for pain or fever as directed, based on your age and weight. Use this unless another medicine was prescribed. Talk with your provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or digestive bleeding.

  • Finish any antibiotics you were given.


  • Use only 14-karat gold, titanium, or surgical steel jewelry.

  • Don't touch the jewelry except when putting it on or taking it off.

  • Always clean the jewelry and your piercing site with soap and water before putting in the jewelry.

  • Keep the clasp loose to allow space on either side of the jewelry.

  • Don't use nickel, cobalt, or white gold jewelry. These can cause an allergic reaction with itching and swelling. This can lead to an infection.

  • For pierced ears: After you have worn the earrings for at least 6 weeks, remove them at bedtime each night. This allows the pierced part of your ear to be exposed to air for part of each day.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call the healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increased swelling or redness of around your piercing.

  • Redness and swelling don't start to get better after 2 days of treatment

  • Fluid draining from your piercing site.

  • Not being able to see the front or back side of the earrings because of swelling

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher for more than 2 days after starting treatment, or as directed by your provider

  • Your child has a fever (see Fever and children, below)

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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