Infected piercings

An infected piercing can be serious if it's not treated quickly. Get immediate medical help if you think your piercing is infected.

What's normal for a new piercing

For the first few weeks a new piercing might:

If you've had an ear or nose cartilage piercing, small lumps can sometimes form around the piercing.

The lumps, called granulomas, are trapped fluid. You can treat them by soaking a pad in warm water then holding the pad against them once a day.

Check if you have an infected piercing

Your piercing might be infected if:

Close-up photo of a person's ear lobe with a gold hoop earring. The ear lobe is red and swollen.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • you think your piercing might be infected

Leave your jewellery in (unless a doctor tells you to take it out).

Treatment for infected piercings

You may need antibiotics if your piercing is infected. This can be a cream, ointment, or tablets.

How to prevent infections in new piercings


  • choose a qualified, experienced and licensed piercer

  • clean your piercing twice a day

  • use warm, salty water to soften any crusting

  • gently turn the jewellery while cleaning the piercing

  • use a clean paper towel to dry the piercing

  • gargle with salty water or an alcohol-free mouthwash if you have a mouth piercing


  • do not do your own piercings (you're much more likely to get an infection)

  • do not use cotton wool to clean the piercing (use a cotton bud or pad)

  • do not pick at any crusting

  • do not twist or turn jewellery when the piercing is dry

  • do not use a towel to dry the piercing

  • do not have sex until a genital piercing has healed

  • do not have oral sex until a mouth piercing has healed

  • do not go swimming for the first 24 hours after a piercing

Things to ask your piercer

If you're thinking about getting a piercing, ask the piercer:

Page last reviewed: 16 April 2020
Next review due: 16 April 2023