New nipple piercings take time and persistence to properly heal, and it is common for a nipple piercing to battle infection when it is new and still healing. A nipple piercing requires a pattern of aftercare and if it becomes infected, further steps will need to be taken to save your piercing.
If you are dedicated to your after care, hopefully you will not see signs of irritation, rejection, or infection. However, with any piercing there is a chance that your body will develop an infection at the piercing site. It is also common for bodies to reject piercings. You will likely always see some irritation immediately after you become pierced.
Keep reading to find out if your nipple piercing is healing properly and signs to look out for that could mean an infection is present.
Is My Nipple Piercing Infected?
Directly after a nipple piercing you are likely to experience a lingering pain that can last for hours, or sometimes many days. During this period your nipple is attempting to heal, and your body is reacting to the foreign piercing and trying to protect itself from further harm or infection.
Determining an infection during this healing process can be tricky because it is normal experience some discomfort. Because the nipple is a sensitive location on the body, senses of pain and tenderness can be heightened. It can be difficult to know if what you’re experiencing is normal, or if your piercing is fighting an infection.
What Causes a Nipple Piercing to Become Infected?
A nipple piercing becomes infected when bacteria enter the wound that the piercing has created, and the body sees this as a threat. As a result, it attacks the area and is attempts to reject the threat (your piercing and the bacteria that came with it).
Bacteria can enter the piercing if the nipple site or body jewelry was not properly disinfected before or after the piercing took place or if the wound or piercing site is touched with unclean hands. The infection can also occur if the piercing site is touched too often, which does not allow the healing process to take place and irritates the piercing.
A nipple piercing is also in a location where it can be easily snagged on clothing or pressed against clothing that is tight. This friction or snagging can tear at the piercing or irritate the delicate skin around the nipple. Sweating, swimming, or exposing your piercing to any other bodily fluids can cause bacteria and infection to spread.
For this reason, you always must take great care of your piercing during the healing process and make sure to keep it clean. Always wash your hands before cleaning your piercing!
What Are the Signs of an Infected Nipple Piercing?
There are important signs to look out for that could indicate that your piercing is infected. Irritation at the piercing site is common during the first few days of healing, but a rash, or extremely touch-sensitive piercing could mean an infection is looming. A swollen piercing is also incredibly common during the first few days or weeks of the healing process.
However, irregular swelling or swelling that does not decrease overtime is a red flag. Other signs to look out for include a bad odor or colored discharge noticeable near the piercing site. Don’t worry, clear or white discharge from the piercing is normal and means your body is healing. A piercing that is extremely hot to the touch also indicates an infection.
More serious signs of infection include headaches, fever, body aches, and fatigue. In some cases, severe infection can cause the lymph nodes in your armpits to become swollen. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is recommended that you receive immediate medical attention.
How Common Is It for Nipple Piercings to Get Infected?
Unfortunately, because of their placement and the general factors surrounding nipple piercings, they do have a higher risk of getting infected. The risk of infection with this type of piercing is generally higher than that of a cartilage, ear, or nose piercing. A nipple piercing can also become infected long after the piercing has been completed because of its extensive and lengthy healing process.
Snagging, great amounts of friction, or touching can cause even a healed nipple piercing to become infected. It is important to note that for some, the nipples are connected to milk ducts which can also increase risk of infection to the piercing if a person is nursing or becomes pregnant.
Can a Piercing Infection Go Away on Its Own?
A piercing infection is not likely to go away on its own, and it will require action from you to begin subsiding so your piercing can heal. This process can be lengthy, so it is important that you do not get discouraged and continue your cleaning routine! There are times that an infected nipple piercing can take many months to heal, depending on how severe it is.
More minor infections, or infections that are treated early, can sometimes take only one week to heal. The length of the process all depends on the severity and the measures taken once the infection is identified. This is why it is so important to recognize the signs of a piercing infection!
If you ignore an infected nipple piercing, you will likely become increasingly uncomfortable as the infection spreads and worsens. If it continues to go untreated, odds are you will not be tough enough to resist removing your piercing–if your body doesn’t do it for your first.
The best rule is to start treating your piercing infection as soon as you see the first red flag. An extra clean piercing never hurt anyone! If you are unsure if your piercing is infected, its not a bad idea to consult a doctor. The faster you can start treating it the faster it will be healed.
How Do You Treat an Infected Nipple Piercing?
To treat your infected nipple piercing you must first clean the area. Wash your hands and gently clean the area around the piercing. Sensitive soaps or soaps that are free of perfumes and dyes are less likely to cause irritation to the piercing. Make sure that you are not using any harsh soaps or detergents. Other cleansers to avoid include alcohol, ointments, or hydrogen peroxide.
A sea salt soak is one of the best ways to treat a piercing infection after cleansing. Pour one cup warm water per ¼ teaspoon of salt into a glass or bowl and use suction to place over the nipple, creating a seal. Allow the nipple to soak for several minutes in the solution before removing and cleansing one more time.
If you are unable to use the mixed solution, a warm compress can also be applied to the infected nipple to help draw out impurities and cleans the piercing. Be sure to complete this 2-3 times per day to speed up the healing process and assist your body in fighting the infection.
If necessary, use a prescribed ant-biotic ointment from your doctor as directed. Please do not use over the counter piercing or antibiotic ointments as these only trap bacteria and make the infection worse. In a severe scenario, a doctor may also prescribe antibiotic pills to take in addition to the other methods.
What’s the Difference Between Infection vs Rejection vs Irritation?
Infection, rejection, and irritation are all possibilities with piercings. When a nipple piercing is irritated, it may appear red or be mildly itchy or painful. This likely means that the piercing is still in the healing stages, or it could mean that it has been pulled, pressed, or touched too frequently. This does not necessarily mean an infection is present.
An infection will have more severe symptoms such as dark or smelly discharge, extreme tenderness, and skin that is hot to the touch. When a piercing is being rejected, you will likely experience irritation symptoms. However, with a rejected piercing you will also notice that more of the body jewelry is becoming visible. This is due to the skin under the piercing shrinking to force out the piercing.
Other signs to look out for include itchiness, dryness, or visible jewelry under the skin.
It is important to note that not removing a rejected piercing can cause permanent scarring or nipple disfigurement to occur. It is best to follow the signs of nipple piercing rejection and act accordingly by removing the piercing and contacting your piercer. They may suggest that you try a different size or gauge or jewelry, or jewelry made from a different material.