Nipples are very sensitive and an infection due to a piercing is a common side effect.
If an infection occurs, there are some steps to take quickly to ensure it clears up.
Also, there are some crucial things to avoid when treating nipple piercings. Understanding these may mean the difference between a quick healing time and an infection.
Contents of this article:
What are the side effects of a nipple piercing?
A nipple piercing is a self-inflicted wound that starts healing, as soon as it happens. Usually, this wound heals around the jewelry, meaning a successful piercing.
The healing process can cause side effects, such as redness, itching, or small amounts of discharge. These symptoms are normal and usually go away as the piercing heals over the following few months.
Nipple piercings can also cause hematomas to form at the site of the insertion. These are cysts filled with blood that require medical drainage.
Scarring is another common side effect caused by nipple piercings. Certain scar tissues, such as keloid scars, create a growth of permanent scar tissue at the site of the piercing. These scars can only be removed surgically.
Signs and symptoms of an infected nipple piercing
A common side effect of nipple piercing is an infection. Some signs of an infection are very obvious. If pus is coming from the piercing, it is a clear sign that there is an infection.
Other signs of infection are subtler. The skin around the piercing may become red and irritated. It may also be inflamed or continuously itchy. Any of these signs could mean there is an infection.
Other symptoms of an infected piercing include:
- swelling and redness
- extreme sensitivity or pain, especially to touch
- the piercing may feel hot
- foul smell
- rashes surrounding the piercing
- odd colored discharge
- aches throughout the body
Anyone who is unsure about their piercing should talk to their piercer and a doctor. Having an experienced eye look at it can help determine if there is an infection, or if the cause of concern is the normal healing process.
Anyone with signs of a serious infection should contact their doctor immediately for treatment.
Infection vs. rejection
The nipples are also one of the areas of the body that may be more prone to reject a piercing. Rejection happens when the body tries to heal over the piercing instead of around it.
While rejection is not truly an infection, people may experience similar symptoms. Symptoms, such as redness and itching, can occur near the piercing.
Also, the skin around it may show signs of an allergic reaction to the metal of the piercing. It might force the jewelry out of the skin if not enough skin was pierced.
Treating a nipple piercing infection
If home treatment for an infected nipple piercing is unsuccessful then a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Treating an infection from a nipple piercing is usually a simple process if it is caught early enough. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics in serious cases.
There are also plenty of things that can be done in the home to help treat an infected nipple piercing.
Washing the area should be part of a basic after-piercing care routine, but it is more important if the piercing has become infected. Keeping the area clean, by using warm water and a gentle soap, can help support the body, as it tries to clear out the infection.
Hot or cold compress
A mixture of warm and cold compresses may help speed up the healing process.
A warm compress can increase the blood flow to the area, which can help reduce inflammation and drain the infection.
A cold compress can help reduce swelling and relieve pain when it is applied. A cold compress should be used carefully around the nipple, as the skin is sensitive.
Sea salt wash
A simple treatment method is to rinse the area with sea salt water. This is done easily by filling a small shot glass with purified water and then adding pure sea salt to it. There should be just enough salt to dissolve in the water easily.
Gently place the infected nipple into the shot glass and then tip the glass up and press it into the skin, to create a seal around the infected area. Hold the water there for 5 to 15 minutes and remove it. Rinse the area with warm water and gently dry.
A sea salt rinse, such as this, can be done twice a day for a few days. If symptoms of infection do not clear up, it may be time to see a doctor.
Wear loose clothing
When the piercing is infected and irritated, adding friction to the mix does not help. Wearing tight-fitting clothing that constantly rubs against the piercing may make symptoms worse.
Tight clothing can also hold more sweat and bacteria against the infected site. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing, undershirts, or bras while the infection is healing.
What not to do
There are some very important things to avoid when treating an infected piercing. These things may make the infection worse or slow down healing time.
Jewelry should not be removed from an infected piercing. The jewelry acts like a drain for the discharge caused by the infection.
If the jewelry is removed and the wound closes over while it is still infected, an abscess can form. Abscesses are more difficult to treat and make the infection much worse.
The jewelry may need to be changed in cases where the body is rejecting the metal, but it should usually not be removed completely.
It is also important not to use over-the-counter antibiotic creams. While these are good for minor scrapes and cuts, they can trap bacteria in a wound and make the infection worse.
When cleaning the infected area, avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can irritate the skin and cause additional symptoms. Perfumes, harsh soaps, and excess detergents should also be avoided around the infected area.
Avoiding an infected nipple piercing
A professional piercer should supply detailed instructions on caring for the piercing and how to avoid any infections.
The best way to treat an infection is to prevent it. A knowledgeable piercer will give their customers detailed instructions on how to care for their piercing, and these should be followed closely.
In general, piercings should be treated with great care as they are healing. The area should be gently washed every day and multiple times when the body is sweating a lot.
Any unnecessary friction should be avoided during this time as well. Keeping the piercing loosely covered and protected may help reduce the chance of infection.
The piercing, jewelry, and surrounding skin should not be touched during the healing process. Doing so can introduce different bacteria every time and influence an infection.
It may also be helpful to avoid public pools, baths, and gyms as the piercing heals. These places are full of bacteria and may increase the chances of an infection.
When to see a doctor
When home treatments do not work or symptoms persist or get worse, it may be time to see a doctor for prescription antibiotics. Doctors will prescribe a cream to apply to the area in most cases, but some infections may call for oral antibiotics, as well.
It is important to follow the doctor's instructions on treatment to avoid complications. People who follow proper self-care techniques while treating the infection will usually heal within a couple of weeks. People who do not follow proper self-care techniques may end up with a lingering infection.
Infections that are not treated quickly may contribute to lasting complications, such as reduced sensation in the pierced nipple or permanent scar tissue. Diagnosing and treating the infection, as quickly as possible, may help avoid these complications.