The fascinating world of body art, which was once only limited to certain tribal sects, has rapidly spread across the globe as a cool style quotient. Two of the most popular forms are belly button piercing and tattoos. If you are up for the pain it initially causes, then these body arts can surely make you the star of the party.
When a professional abides by proper hygiene standards, these body arts do not bring along any health concerns. However, poor aftercare and unsanitary conditions while getting the piercing done might lead to belly button piercing infections.
Although such belly button piercing looks simply gorgeous, it can take anywhere around six weeks to 9 months to heal completely1Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999, June). 'Body piercing medical concerns with cutting-edge fashion' Source-PubMed2S. Samantha M. Tweeten, Leland S. Rickman. 'Infectious Complications of Body Piercing, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 26, Issue 3, March 1998, Pages 735–740' Source
The risk of infection spread remains relatively high at this time. As compared to the other types of body piercings, belly button piercing infection accounts for 40% of the total complications3Ranga, N., & Jeffery, A. J. (2011, January 25). 'Body piercing with fatal consequences' Source-PubMed
Signs and Symptoms of Belly Button Infection Piercing
Following are the signs and symptoms of belly button infection piercing4Purim, K. S., Rosario, B. A., Rosario, C. S., & Guimarães, A. T. (2014). 'Piercings in medical students and their effects on the skin' Source-PubMed
It is usual for a fresh piercing to show signs of redness, swelling occurring around the site. A clear discharge which is colorless and odorless may occur. If the symptoms do not abate within a couple of days, it is best to consult a dermatologist to prevent worsening or spread of the condition (which may probably turn into an infection or an allergy).
1. Infection Post Belly-Button Piercing
What causes Infection Post Belly-Button Piercing?
An infection is caused due to poor piercing technique, improper use of sterile equipment, not cleansing the area to be pierced with an antiseptic, prior to the procedure, presence of a prior infection at or close to the site of piercing or improper post-piercing hygiene practice.
An open wound, as in disruption of the skin barrier, post-piercing is the biggest risk for the individual as it becomes susceptible to a foreign body attack. Bacterial infections are the most common however viral and fungal infections can also occur. Streptococcus and Staphylococcus species are the two most commonly known bacterial species that infect an individual post belly button piercing.
Further, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis(if the person already has it or has an inherent susceptibility to it) at the site of piercing, can lead to infection post-belly button piercing5Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999, June). 'Body piercing medical concerns with cutting-edge fashion' Source-PubMed
Am I at risk If I get Bacterial Infection Post Belly Button Piercing?
It is necessary to deal with the bacterial infection as soon as possible; however, the risk double folds if you are already an immunocompromised patient6Hendricks, W. M. (1991, November). 'Complications of ear piercing: Treatment and prevention'. Source-PubMed. In such a case, it is essential to consult a dermatologist as soon as possible to prevent potential spread of the infection.
Can an old piercing get infected?
The metal used for piercing is highly susceptible to come in contact with your clothes or a sudden touch, which might lead to an injury and cause bleeding. The wound thereby becomes vulnerable to bacterial infection.
2. Allergic Reaction Post Belly Button Piercing
What Causes Allergic Reaction Post Belly Button Piercing?
The metal used for piercing can cause an allergic reaction in your body which is known as allergic contact dermatitis. Use of nickel, nickel alloys or chromium can cause an allergy in your skin7Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999, June). 'Body piercing medical concerns with cutting-edge fashion' Source-PubMed
What are the safe metals for Belly Button Piercing?
There is nothing like a safe metal. It all depends on how your body accepts the metal. Following are some of the relatively safer metals as compared to nickel or chromium8Ferguson, H. (1999). 'Body piercing' Source-PubMed:-
Studies show that some individuals show an allergic reaction to gold and silver piercing.9Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999, June). 'Body piercing medical concerns with cutting-edge fashion' Source-PubMed. Avoid materials which are known to cause allergic reactions.
How to Treat Belly Button Piercing Infection?
1. Let the Pus Flow Out
Make sure not to remove the jewelry by yourself. Usually, it is not always necessary to remove the jewelry for treating piercing infections. The pus can drain easily by itself. Further, to facilitate the flow of pus, make use of a warm compress. Take a clean towel and dip it in hot water. Apply it gently on the infected skin for some time. After that, clean the skin with a dry towel.
2. Clean the infected area
Clean the infected area with cotton and water (containing 1-2 tablespoon of salt), twice a day. Alternatively, you can also use an antibacterial soap to clean the infected skin.
Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, unless recommended by your dermatologist to clean the infection as it can lead to excessive irritation.
3. Antibacterial Cream
After cleaning the infected skin with water and cotton swab, apply an antibacterial cream like mupirocin or bacitracin, twice a day.
Stop using the antibacterial cream and consult your dermatologist if your infection/allergy increases after the application. This can be an indication of an allergy to the mupirocin or bacitracin.
When To Visit a Dermatologist, if You have Belly Button Piercing Infection
If none of those mentioned above treatment plans helps you and you see a surge in the signs and symptoms, especially fever, then it is the time to visit your dermatologist immediately.
Medications11Preslar, D. (2020, July 15). 'Body Piercing Infections' Source-PubMed
After diagnosing the infection, your dermatologist may prescribe oral antibiotics such as clindamycin, cephalexin, sulfamethoxazole/oral trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin depending upon the infection type.
Further, if you haven’t received a tetanus vaccine or a booster in the last five years, your dermatologist might suggest you to take one.
Further, if your dermatologist may find the case a bit severe, surgical removal of the piercing may be considered as an option.
How to Avoid Belly Button Piercing Infection from happening in the Future?
So you have been treated now by your dermatologist and want to avoid the infection from happening again? Follow the instructions mentioned below to keep the belly button infection-free post piercing:-
Clean the Area
Regularly clean the pierced area with saline water (Water with 2 tea spoon of salt). It acts as an aid to remove any irritants present on the skin, around the pierced area. In case, if you got an injury due to a sudden touch on the piercing metal, then cleaning the skin with cotton and saline water becomes even more important as your skin becomes susceptible to the infection.
Clean the Body Fluids
Excessive sweating around the belly button area can lead to an infection12Torres, F., Das Graças, M., Melo, M., & Tosti, A. (2009, April 17). 'Management of contact dermatitis due to nickel allergy' Source-PubMed as the sweat can interact with the metal and cause allergy. Try cleaning the sweat, regularly to avoid infection
Wear loose clothes to avoid contact with the pierced metal and avoid the injury. As explained, an injured skin is highly susceptible to foreign bodies and hence cause infection
Avoid playing Sports Which involve Close Contact
Avoid playing sports like soccer, American football, basketball, wrestling, which involves close contact with the peer sportsmen as the chances of the pierced metal coming in touch with the peer sportsmen, is relatively high. This can result in an injury and thereby lead to a skin infection.
Avoid Playing with the Pierced Metal
Playing with the pierced metal can cause irritation or a sudden injury and hence may result in skin infection
If you by now know, the piercing metal material that can cause allergic contact dermatitis, it is advised to avoid using such allergens for future piercing.
Note: - The content is only for educational purposes and should not be considered as an alternative to a physician’s judgement or treatment.
- 1Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999, June).
Body piercing medical concerns with cutting-edge fashion.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496593/
- 2S. Samantha M. Tweeten, Leland S. Rickman,
Infectious Complications of Body Piercing, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 26, Issue 3, March 1998, Pages 735–740, Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1086/514586
- 3Ranga, N., & Jeffery, A. J. (2011, January 25).
Body piercing with fatal consequences.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062280/
- 4Purim, K. S., Rosario, B. A., Rosario, C. S., & Guimarães, A. T. (2014).
Piercings in medical students and their effects on the skin.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4230659/
- 5Hendricks, W. M. (1991, November).
Complications of ear piercing: Treatment and prevention.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1764962/
- 6Ferguson, H. (1999).
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1127091/
- 7Preslar, D. (2020, July 15).
Body Piercing Infections.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537336/
- 8Torres, F., Das Graças, M., Melo, M., & Tosti, A. (2009, April 17).
Management of contact dermatitis due to nickel allergy: An update.
Retrieved October 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047925/
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