With the pandemic ending and belly button piercings becoming trendy once again, it’s the perfect time to experiment. If you act quick, your belly button piercing will even be healed by the time summer officially rolls around. But we’re all here to learn one thing — can a belly button piercing make you feel sick?
Generally, belly button piercings will not make you feel sick. Granted that the piercing is done at a professional studio and proper care is followed, there’s really nothing to worry about. However, the uncommon side effects of any piercing include the risk of infection and allergic reactions — which may lead to sickness.
Rather than scaring you, take this post as a chance to learn the in’s and out’s of belly button piercing aftercare and the signs to be cautious of. If belly button piercings are what you imagine your ideal self to be rocking, don’t be scared and live a little.
Complications and How Long the Sickness Will Last
As mentioned, the two most common problems that might occur from belly button piercings are infections and allergic reactions.
- Infections occur when bacteria enters the piercing location while the piercing is still an open wound. The most common causes of a piercing-related infection include unsanitary conditions during the piercing process and poor aftercare. A typical belly button piercing infection will last for 1 to 2 weeks when properly handled.
- Allergic reactions occur when the piercing jewelry is a metal that you’re allergic to. After an allergic reaction is spotted , taking out the jewelry can help. Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, the symptoms will disappear in a few hours to a few days.
The Warning Signs of Infection
The most disastrous outcome of a belly button piercing is often when an infection takes hold. Luckily, there’s good news. If these warning signs are spotted and you take appropriate measures — that’s as far as an infection will get and you’ll return to healing in no time.
The symptoms of a belly button piercing include:
- Severe swelling
- Red lines that appear near piercing site
- Pain and redness around piercing
- Intense Itching and burning
- Odorous discharge (brown, yellow, green)
- Fevers and/or chills
- Upset stomach, vomiting, loss of appetite
The first few days after you get your belly button piercing, you’ll likely experience some swelling, redness, and pain near the pierced area — don’t panic. Even clear discharge is not a cause for concern.
So, when exactly should you be concerned?
- When your general signs like swelling and redness get worse, not
- Infection specific symptoms unrelated to the piercing take hold (e.g. fevers, vomiting, fatigue).
How to Handle an Infected Piercing
Luckily, most belly button piercing infections can be treated at home. Here are 4 steps that can be taken to handle and heal your infection:
- Leave the piercing in.
- Daily cleaning of the piercing using a product like H20 Spray (Amazon link)
- Use a warm compress.
- Apply an anti-bacterial ointment.
Leave the Piercing In
In most cases, the piercing does not need to be removed to treat infections. In fact, keeping the piercing in can promote drainage and helps you avoid a build-up of the pus from occurring. The only exception is if the piercing jewelry itself is poor-quality and causing irritation.
Daily Cleaning of the Piercing
Not only is cleaning critical to preventing an infection, but to treat an infection as well. To clean and limit the amount of harmful bacteria that live near the piercing, follow these steps:
- Wash your hands with soap.
- Apply saline spray to your piercing. A very popular and well known piercing spray on the market is called H20 Tattoo Solution (Amazon link)
- Pat the piercing dry with a clean towel
Experts recommend cleaning your infected piercing area twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Any more will cause drying, and ultimately delay healing processes.
Use a Warm Compress
Applying a warm compress 3-4 times a day can assist to reduce swelling and drain the infected pus. Whether you use a warm washcloth or heating pack, it is essential that the warm compress is clean and not overly hot. Place the warm compress on your piercing for 5 minutes and pat dry afterwards.
As always, make sure to wash your hands with soap before handling your warm compress.
Apply an Antibacterial Cream
The last step is to apply an antibacterial cream like Neosporin. This step promotes faster healing and reduces further complications. While some antibacterial creams are available over-the-counter, you may want to consult your doctor about potential allergies before using them.
How to Prevent an Infection Before It Occurs
At the end of the day, stopping a piercing from getting infected in the first place is the most optional choice. How exactly do we prevent an infection before it occurs? It’s all about staying hygienic and maintaining proper aftercare.
The Piercing Process and Staying Hygienic
If you’re getting pierced at a shop that’s not clean, you can actually develop an infection or even worse right from the start. That’s why it’s crucial to find a studio that’s clean and adheres to industry safety regulations. To have the safest experience, make sure to:
- Choose carefully in regards to general hygiene — Are the walls grimy and are the floors sticky? If so, that immediately tells you that hygiene is not a main concern for this particular studio.
- Always ask for a one-time needle — Reusable needles are the biggest red flag for a piercing studio. If they refuse, you have the total right and must walk out right away to protect yourself.
- Review their sterilizer — While you can’t go in and test their sterilizing methods, the studio should have recent results about their sterilizer that they are comfortable sharing.
- Be cautious of piercing guns — Like reusable needles, piercing guns can harbor bacteria that can lead to complications.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions — Ask about shop licenses and qualifications, you have the right to know who you’re working with.
- Use your head — You generally get what you paid for. Don’t be swooned by a cheap bargain if you are risking your health. Always do your research and read reviews before jumping in.
Proper Aftercare Tips
After choosing a safe piercer, your next responsibility is to keep your belly button piercing clean for the next 8-10 months — or until the piercing has fully healed. Luckily, the aftercare isn’t too high-maintenance.
As mentioned before, the main part of your aftercare is cleaning your belly button piercing twice a day. This is typically done using a purchase-ready saline spray or homemade mixture (⅛ teaspoon of non-iodized salt mixed with 1 cup of warm bottled water). If your piercer suggests soap instead, make sure it is mild and scent-free. With soap, you’ll also be cleaning twice a day.
Now, here are some tips for the aftercare process that should help your healing stay on track:
- Always wash your hands — Well, this one is pretty obvious — but can not be understated.
- Leave the crust alone — Picking at the crust will result in bleeding and opens up your wound. Don’t worry, the crust is there for protection and eventually falls off on its own.
- No thick ointments or oils — While coconut oils and vaselines have many health benefits, their thick consistency slows down healing and traps bacteria underneath them. The same applies for medicinal ointments.
- Avoid bodies of water — Staying out of public water sources like pools and lakes will decrease your chances of developing an infection. The chlorine in pools can also slow down healing.
- Consult a doctor or piercer — If you’re feeling sick or just need aftercare advice, don’t be afraid to call up your doctor or piercer. They’ll be able to help you find the right approach to feel better.
Detecting and Dealing with an Allergic Reaction
While the solution for an allergic reaction is quite straight-forward, the more important part is understanding that the allergic reaction is happening.
Here are the symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- Itchy, red, and inflamed rash
- Unexplained yet constant warmth in the area
- Pierced hole appears to be larger than before
To deal with an allergic reaction, you’ll want to consult your piercer and have them remove the piercing. You can then go for a new piercing or choose to let the piercing close up. If you decide to change piercings, here are the safest metals for body piercings. Nickel is known to cause allergies, and these metals have minimum amounts of nickel in them.
The most allergy-friendly piercing jewelries include:
- Surgical stainless steel
- 14k / 18k Gold
To Wrap Up
Like anything in life — piercings have risks. But, a majority of people who get belly button piercings never encounter a problem. With proper aftercare and management, you’ll be able to rock a mesmerizing look without jeopardizing your health. Summer’s right around the corner, so let’s live a little and be free!