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Published Sunday, March 6, 2016

Piercing Problems To Watch Out For And What To Do

Whether you’ve just joined the ranks of the pierced or you’ve had piercings for years, it’s possible to have issues crop up. This article covers some of the things that can happen, why they happen and what you can do about it.


What to look for:

Itching and tenderness, but not puss. There might be some swelling or redness, but not much. Maybe you jerked your nose jewelry out with a hand towel (I did that multiple times) or snagged your eyebrow jewelry with your bath scrubby (Done that too), or maybe you’ve come down with a flu or a cold and for whatever reason it makes your piercings go nuts.

What to do:

First, keep an eye on it in case it’s the early symptoms of an infection. Second, take care of it so it doesn’t turn into one. Get some saline spray or solution to soak it in. Professional piercer, APP member and friend of the blog Rick Frueh suggests using refrigerator temperature (not freezer) compresses on it to sooth it and bring down inflammation.

I’ve seen a lot of people recommend a chamomile tea bag. After you put it in hot water to make tea, you take the bag out and let it cool a bit, then put it over the piercing. The heat and chamomile is supposed to be soothing. But do let it cool a bit before you use it. This isn’t Braveheart, you’re not using boiling teabags to cauterize a wound. It’s just supposed to be warm.

Rick cautions that doing more may not be the best solution. “Using other products such as the chamomile isn’t always better, sometimes more is worse.” The best option, in his opinion? Check with your piercer.


What to look for:

Your piercing is moving, probably steadily out of your body. When you first get a piercing, the jewelry is a foreign object, much like a splinter. Your body tries to reject it for a while. Areas like the eyebrows and navel, where the piercing goes in and comes out on the “same side” are more prone to migrating during healing. Ears, tongue and places that are pierced clean through are less likely, though any piercing can experience some migration. Once the fistula forms (the wall your body builds around foreign objects it can’t push out) you’re probably fine. Injury of the piercing down the road can cause damage to the fistula and while it’s re-healing you may have more migration.

What to do:

Watch and wait. If your piercing moves around a lot before healing, or pushes completely out, then you can go back to the piercer and get re-pierced, or get a whole new piercing. Sometimes a new piercing in the same spot will work, and sometimes your body will reject it again, like Wolverine pushing out bullets. It’s also good to note that after the piercing has calmed down some and started to heal, you may have your swelling go way down and it might look like the piercing is moving when it isn’t.

Image of possible migration



First, I should say that infection is so uncommon that Rick said it should go last on the list (I originally had it first). Most of the redness, goo leakage and swelling you’re experiencing post-piercing is just normal irritation and part of the healing process.

But if things get ugly…

What to look for:

Heavy redness and swelling. If you just got pierced, chances are it will be a little red and swollen, that’s okay. Don’t touch it without washing your hands, and follow all of the piercing aftercare instructions that your piercer gave you. If you’ve had the piercing for a little while and notice that it’s redder or more swollen than usual, it’s a sign something might be wrong. It’s normal for some white goo to come out of piercings, Rick says, “Yellow goo is also ok. Green is really the only color goo to be concerned about.”

What you shouldn’t do:

Over-clean your piercing, clean it every ten minutes with harsh chemicals and touch it all the time with your hands (washed or otherwise). This can cause more irritation, increase the risk of infection and delay the healing process. You definitely shouldn’t take the jewelry out.

What you should do:

Go see your piercer, first. If you’re concerned, you could also go see your doctor, although their advice may not be piercing-friendly.


I’ve seen terrible, horrible pictures of infected piercings. Do not wait until things have obviously gone horribly wrong to talk to someone. A systemic infection – that is, an infection that’s made its way into your body – can cause fever, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, and confusion.

That means toxic shock syndrome or one of its cousins and potentially death. At that point you need to see a doctor immediately.

Not your doctor, the emergency room doctor.


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