Nipple piercings are one of the most popular piercings in male and female adults. The piercing consists of a generally horizontal barbell or ring at the base of the nipple. Because of the location on the body and the sensitivity of the area, the nipple piercing is at risk for infection if not cared for properly during the healing process.
Causes of Infection
Infection occurs in all piercings when proper after-care techniques are not followed. According to BME, one major cause of infection in nipple piercings is frequent touching or fondling the piercing. Playing with the nipple piercing introduces bacteria to the piercing site. Other forms of infection can occur when the piercer was not working in a sterile environment. This can happen by reusing equipment, not using proper hand-washing and gloving techniques or failing to disinfect the facility before piercing. Bodily fluids such as saliva can also cause infection in new piercing sites.
Signs and Symptoms
According to the Center for Young Women's Health in Boston, the following are signs of infection in a piercing site: redness, yellow or green discharge, foul odor, swelling, fever and rash. These symptoms vary in severity but can often be the first warning sign that a bacterial infection is occurring in the nipple-piercing area. If you are unsure, contact your piercer or doctor to determine if an infection may be forming.
If a serious infection is suspected, contact your physician to prevent permanent damage or spreading infection. The most common treatments recommended by FamilyDoctor.org are over-the-counter antibiotic creams, soaking with sea salt and warm compresses to draw the infection out of the body. Throughout treatment, proper hand-washing should be maintained.
While not necessarily infection, nipple piercings are also prone to rejection. Rejection occurs when the body heals the skin behind the piercing and forces it out of the site. This can occur due to allergic reactions to the metal or because not enough skin was pierced to hold the jewelry in.
While it is hard to resist, avoiding touching the piercing can make the difference between causing an infection or not. It's important to keep all other bodily fluids (even your own) away from the piercing site to not introduce any external bacteria. Using proper after-care techniques is crucial to healing the piercing as fast as possible without any infection occurring. Wearing loose clothing and not allowing frequent rubbing and irritation helps heal the piercing quickly. The Center for Young Women's Health also recommends making sure to wash off all sweat after exercise. It's most important to follow the piercer's after-care instructions for proper cleaning.