Can I go swimming after a piercing?

You should avoid swimming for at least 24 hours after having a piercing, and ideally until it has healed properly. While it's still healing, it's important to keep the piercing dry as there's a risk of infection.

How long will it take to heal?

A new body piercing may be red and tender for a few weeks. The healing time for a body piercing can vary depending on which part of your body is pierced and how well you look after it.

As a general guide, healing times for the most common body piercings can be:

  • ear lobe – six to eight weeks 
  • top of the ear – six to eight weeks 
  • belly button (navel) – six months to one year 
  • nose – up to six months
  • tongue – two to four weeks

Swimming

It's possible to pick up an infection from any body of water, so while your piercing heals you should avoid swimming in:

  • swimming pools
  • streams, lakes and rivers
  • the sea

You should also avoid using hot tubs.

Signs of infection

Your piercing may be infected if:

  • it's red and swollen 
  • it feels warm
  • it's painful – particularly if it's throbbing or the pain is spreading 
  • there's discharge coming from the piercing, which may be yellow or green and foul-smelling

If you have any signs of infection, see your GP.

Looking after your piercing

After having a piercing, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. You may be advised to gently clean the area with a warm saline or salt water solution.

However, the piercing should be cleaned no more than is necessary to keep it clean, as over-cleaning can irritate the skin and delay healing. It's not normally necessary to rotate or remove a piece of jewellery.

To clean the piercing, submerge the area in a warm saline or salt water solution for 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, soak a clean cloth in the solution and apply to the area. Once any discharge has softened, you can clean it with a cotton bud or piece of gauze.

Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap, and dry them with a disposable towel before touching or washing your piercing.

Ensure any clothing and bedding that may come into contact with the area around the piercing is clean.

Further information:

Body piercing

More than a quarter of people experience complications after having a part of their body pierced, including swelling, infection and bleeding. Members of the public talk about their experience.

Media last reviewed: 08/07/2015

Next review due: 08/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 04/06/2015

Next review due: 03/06/2017