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Piercings: How to prevent complications - Part 2

Insist on safety precautions
To make sure your piercing will be done safely, answer these questions:
  • Who does the piercings? Don't attempt to pierce yourself or allow an untrained friend to do the piercing. Go to a reputable piercing studio that employs only properly trained employees. Keep in mind that regulation requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations.
  • Does the piercer wear gloves? Make sure the piercer washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of protective gloves for each piercing.
  • Does the piercer use proper equipment? For earlobe piercing, piercers often use an ear-piercing gun to quickly push an earring through the earlobe. For other body piercings, piercers typically push a needle through a body part and then insert a piece of jewelry into the hole. Make sure the piercer uses only fresh, sterile needles.
  • Does the piercer sterilize nondisposable equipment? Make sure the piercer uses a heat-sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all nondisposable equipment after each piercing. Instruments and supplies that can't be sterilized with an autoclave — including drawer handles, tables and sinks — should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.
  • Does the piercer use hypoallergenic jewelry? Look for surgical-grade steel, titanium, niobium, or 14- or 18-karat gold.
Take good care of your piercing
The skin around a new piercing might be slightly swollen, red and tender for a few days. The site might even bleed slightly. As the piercing heals, white or yellow fluid might drain and form a slight crust on the jewelry. To prevent infection and to encourage healing, take good care of your piercing:
  • Clean oral piercings with mouthwash. If you've had your tongue, lip or cheek pierced, rinse with an antibacterial, alcohol-free mouth rinse or a packaged sterile saline solution for 30 to 60 seconds after each meal and before you go to bed. Brush your teeth with a new, soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid introducing bacteria into your mouth.
  • Clean skin piercings with antibacterial soap. If you've had your skin pierced, clean the site with antibacterial soap once or twice a day. Be sure to wash your hands before cleaning your piercing. Remove any crusting with a cotton swab. Avoid alcohol and peroxide, which can dry the skin. Also avoid ointments, which keep oxygen from reaching the piercing.
  • Avoid swimming. Stay out of pools, hot tubs, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water while your piercing is healing.
  • Don't fiddle with your piercings. Don't touch a new piercing or twist the jewelry unless you're cleaning it. Keep clothing away from the piercing, too. Excessive rubbing or friction can irritate your skin and delay healing.
  • Keep the jewelry in place. Most piercings heal within about six weeks, but some types might take several months or longer to heal. If you want to maintain the piercing, leave the jewelry in place during this time to keep the hole from closing. After the piercing heals, you might see an indentation or hole when you remove the jewelry.
If you think your piercing might be infected or you're concerned that your piercing isn't healing properly, contact your doctor. Prompt treatment can help prevent potentially serious complications.

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