Do you have an infected belly button piercing? What are some of the signs and symptoms should you expect? Learn more about causes, symptoms, care tips, cleaning as well as how to treat the infection.
A pierced navel can add charm to your belly button especially if you have a toned flat stomach you want to show off. However, if these if are not taken good care of, they do get infections that can be quite troublesome.
This does not apply to new piercing only since there are many cases of infections after months or even years when it had completely healed.
The location of the navel, being in a dark and damp place, encourages infections. This is worsened if you have a sunken or very deep one. Furthermore, sweating and deposits on the pierced site or navel add on to the chances of infections.
All the factors above make the infected navel piercing rate fairly high i.e. in American, pierced navels are the most common accounting for about 33%. “Unfortunately, 31% of them have complications, 15.2% needed outpatient consultation, and 0.9% were even hospitalized for treatment” [howshealth.com].
In terms of risks, is the next most risky piercing after the eye as it can be a gateway for infections reaching your abdominal cavities through the pierced hole. As steadyhealth.com reports, “It is risky because needles used to pierce the skin can spread infections” because the ring will always touch your clothing.
Furthermore, there are inherent risks such as injuries, scars, keloid formation, rejection, stretch from weight gain or pregnancy, among other minor discomforts.
The most common causes of pierced navel infections include bacteria and allergic reactions. Fungi, yeast, and another pathogenic microorganism can also cause infections.
These pathogens will tend to thrive if you create a favorable environment such as not cleaning your piercing regularly, touching it with dirty hands, poor personal hygiene, injuries, unsterilized equipment, wrong jewelry (in terms of size or material that cause allergies), among other things.
On average, a pierced belly button will take between 9 months to a year or even up to two years to heal completely. During this healing time, especially during the first few weeks, due diligence needs to be taken to avoid getting the infection.
Follow the provided aftercare routine religiously and you will not have any of the problems, risks, and dangers associated with this piercing type.
When your pierced belly button gets an infection, you will expect some signs and symptoms. Depending on the cause, you will experience a number of signs and symptoms. Some of the common signs include:
- Tenderness, redness, and swelling
- Discharge and pus oozing out especially yellowish or greenish pus (cellulitis) that can have a foul smell
- Abscess formation if your the site has poor drainage
- Presence of bumps and bubbles
- Skin discoloration if the infection goes to a more advanced stage
- Bleeding in some cases
- Aching, throbbing pain and hot feeling when you touch the area
- Itchy rashes around the site
- An enlarged pierced hole
- Fever, stomach upsets, vomiting, and dizziness
These are not the only signs. The moment you notice anything abnormal or causing discomfort in your pierced belly button, find out what could be behind the discomfort.
Note that swelling, tenderness, aching, mild bleeding and redness might be normal for new piercings. However, they should last for the first few days.
Infection while pregnant
If you are pregnant and you have a navel piercing, you can still wear it until your 5th or 6th month of pregnancy. After that, you need to remove it. Alternatively, the moment you see your stomach skin beginning to stretch much due to your pregnancy, you should consider removing the jewelry.
Once you give birth, do not start wearing it after you postpartum. Give yourself a couple of months before you can begin wearing it again.
It is possible to have an infection during pregnancy. Ensure you get early treatment since some medications cannot be taken while you are pregnant. In case you have an infected navel while pregnant, seek medical advice from your doctor before taking any of the medications to avoid dangerous side effects.
In this part, we are going to discuss the various ways to treat an infected belly piercing. They will include treatments, home remedies as well as medications to heal it. Ignoring it can cause sepsis where the infection spreads to your blood. So what to do you do or how do you get rid of infections?
1. Sea salt soak (use of saline solution)
The first way to heal an infection is to use saline solution which you can prepare at home by adding a half a teaspoon of sea salt to a cup of warm water. These solutions can then be used in cleaning the infected piercing.
Salt soak will be able to fight minor infections at their initial stages as well as stop new infections.
2. Use oral antibiotics
The second popular way to treat it is by using prescribed antibiotics. This means you have to see a doctor first for a prescription. The doctor will be in the best position to advise you on which oral antibiotics or topical antibiotics you can use. Topical antibiotic creams commonly used include polymyxin B, bacitracin or Mupirocin.
Oral antibiotics are often recommended in an instance when the infection has spread beyond the pierced site and it is caused by bacteria. It is always a good idea to first see a doctor because, at times, you could be thinking it is an infection yet it could be a piercing rejection.
3. Pain relieving medications
If your navel piercing aches badly or causes a lot of pain, you can get non-prescribed medication (OTC) to help ease the pain as you continue with the treatment process. Try Acetaminophen, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen. Aspirin being a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug will also be helpful.
4. Apply cold pack
In case of swelling and bruises, apply a cold pack wrapped in a towel. Applying ice directly to your navel can damage tissues. This will help reduce the bruising and swelling.
5. Warm Compresses
Besides treatments, you can try some of the good home remedies. One of such home remedy you should try is applying warm compresses.
Using a clean piece of cloth, apply warm compresses on the infected area. Do this for about 5 minutes, several times a day. This will ensure proper drainage and quicken the healing process and it will increase blood flow to the navel.
6. Tea tree oil, lavender or emu oil
Tee tree oil, emu oil, and lavender oil have natural healing agents. You can apply a few drops of these oils especially after you have cleaned the site. This will ensure faster healing.
Having zinc, vitamin C, and D in your diet will also speed up the healing process.
7. Do not remove ring or jewelry
To reduce chances of getting an abscess which - “is a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body” [Wikipedia] due to the piercing closing, do not remove your jewelry.
You can only remove it upon recommendation by a professional healthcare or piercer especially when they notice that the infection is spreading or severe.
8. Avoid using any ointments
Going on with treatments, there is a big temptation of using over the counter antibiotic ointments on your piercing. Desist from using ointments since they tend to cause clogs, as well as trap bacteria that might be causing the infection.
When this happens, the healing process slows down and the infection might worsen or begin spreading to nearby areas. However, according to webmd.com, the “use of an antibiotic ointment has not been shown to affect healing.”
9. Allergic reactions
As a symptom, you might notice a rash around the piercing site. This could be due to an allergic reaction either to the jewelry or the cleaning agent you are using. The rash might also be itchy. Stop using the cleansers you are using and ensure you are not allergic to the navel ring you currently have.
When with bumps
Sometimes you might end up with bumps or bubbles near the pierced site. This is a sign of an infection and you need to treat them. There are many treatments that include applying aspirin, warm saline compresses, applying chamomile teabags, piercing solutions, and the use of tea tree oil.
Our experience and feedback from our readers have shown that most people tend to get best and quick results with tea tree oil followed by the saline (sea salt + water) compresses. Piercing solutions have also been found helpful in getting rid of these bumps.
Most of the infection will disappear if you try some of these treatments. However, you also need to know how to clean an infected belly piercing and properly care for it. This will speed up the healing process and ensure there are no chances of reinfection or the spreading of the infection to areas around the pierced site.
To clean it, get your cleaning solution such as piercing solution, saline solution or even a mild antibacterial soap and cotton swabs, balls or Q-tip. Dip your cotton swabs or balls into the cleaning solution and gently begin to clean the area around your piercing, removing all discharge and debris that might have begun building up.
When you are done with cleaning, you should rotate your jewelry about 3-4 times. Do this 2 to 3 times a day. Avoid over cleaning since it can slow down the healing process.
It is advisable to also clean it when taking a warm shower too. Use antibacterial soaps since they can help in fighting infections. However, you need to avoid perfumed soaps since they can easily irritate it.
Care tips and ideas
Some of the good care tips that can ensure you heal quickly.
- Ensure you loosely bandage the site and wear loose clothing to avoid injuring it further. This will minimize chances of injuries that can cause bleeding.
- Your cleanser choice is important if you do now want to irritate the pierced site. For instance, if you notice red bumps on the pierced site, you should switch to milder cleansers as it could be causing the irritation.
- Always use gold and titanium jewelry and avoid nickel since it often causes allergic reactions.
- Do not use a towel in cleaning to avoid the ring getting stuck in the towel.
- Avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide since it can cause crusting and skin dryness.
- Always sleep with your back to avoid your clothing from sticking to or touching your infected piercing.
When to see a doctor
Sometimes, the above treatments and home remedies may not yield desired results or the infection might worsen. In such a case, you need to see a professional healthcare personnel. Furthermore, see a doctor immediately if you have a badly swollen navel, excessive pain, bleeding or excessive discharge.
Applying pressure if its bleeding is often recommended if it is caused by a minor injury. However, if it is a more serious case of bleeding, you need to see a doctor after first aid. A doctor will examine you and prescribe medications that will easily clear away the infection. He or she should also be able to advise you if you need to remove the infected belly rings.
Sources and references