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 – 6 to 8 weeks
- top of the ear – 6 to 8 weeks
- belly button (navel) – 6 months to 1 year
- nose – up to 6 months
- tongue – 2 to 4 weeks
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 swollen, painful, hot, very red or dark (depending on your skin colour)
- there's blood or pus coming from the piercing, which may be white, yellow or green and foul-smelling
If you have any signs of infection, see a GP.
Looking after your piercing
After having a piercing, it's important to keep the area clean and dry.
Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap, and dry them with a disposable towel before touching or washing your piercing.
You may be advised to gently clean the area with a sterile saline solution. These are labelled as solutions to wash and clean wounds.
- Do not use contact lens saline, eye drops or other saline solutions on a body piercing
- Do not use homemade salt water solution, as this will be too salty and strong and can affect the healing process
- Do not use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial soaps, iodine or any other harsh product, as these can damage cells
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, rinse the area with saline solution. 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.
Ensure any clothing and bedding that may come into contact with the area around the piercing is clean.
Page last reviewed: 8 October 2021
Next review due: 8 October 2024