Can I go swimming after a piercing?

You should avoid swimming until your piercing 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 weeks 
  • top of the ear: at least three to four months 
  • belly button (navel): up to a year 
  • nose: two to three months

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 if 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 saline 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.

Using a saline solution or any other watery substance (such as alcohol solutions) involves fiddling with the piercing and getting it wet, so it’s usually best to avoid using them for at least the first three days after you have had the piercing done. Keeping the piercing dry is more important.

If you have an ear or facial piercing, having baths rather than showers will help to keep the piercing dry. Lower body piercings are harder to keep dry, so it may be best to sponge-clean your body for the first three days, avoiding the pierced area.

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

Ensure that 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: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Page last reviewed: 12/06/2013

Next review due: 12/06/2015