Thinking of getting a nose piercing? Here’s how to avoid infection

Nose piercing
A nose piercing can take six months to fully heal. Hello Africa/Getty Images
  • An infected nose piercing may cause pain, pus, and an abnormal odor at the piercing site.
  • You can use home remedies like a sea salt solution or a warm compress to combat the infection.
  • To prevent infection, don’t use skincare products until the piercing is healed, and avoid swimming.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

While nose piercings are commonplace, getting one comes with the risk of infection, especially when the piercing is new and still healing.

It’s important that you treat an infected nose piercing as soon as you notice it. Otherwise, it could worsen, spread, and end up costing you unnecessary time, money, and trips to the doctor’s.

Here’s how to know if your nose piercing is infected, and if so, how to treat it.

Is my nose piercing infected?

If your nose is newly pierced, it’s normal to experience some swelling, tenderness, and redness, says Jeannette Graf, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

However, symptoms beyond this should be closely monitored for infection. Graf says signs of an infected nose piercing are similar to other infected piercings and can include:

  • More pain than usual
  • Throbbing
  • Abnormal odor
  • Pus oozing from piercing site (white pus is normally a sign of a very mild infection, while green or yellow pus indicates a more serious infection)

Even just one of these symptoms may be an indication of an infection, says R. Peter Manes, MD, FACS, a rhinologist at Yale Medicine.

If you’re experiencing a fever or severe pain, it’s advised that you see a doctor ASAP.

How to treat an infected nose piercing

If your infection isn’t causing you serious, persistent, or worsening pain you can first try treating it at home with the following remedies:

  • Warm compresses: Using a warm compress on the infected area can help reduce swelling. Be sure to use a clean cloth, soak it in warm water, and apply gently to the area.
  • Sea salt solutions: Saline solutions are a natural antiseptic, Graf says. You can make your own by mixing about 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water.

If the infection doesn’t respond to home remedies, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and if the infection leads to an abscess – a swollen collection of infected pus -, your doctor will likely need to drain it.

If you don’t treat a serious piercing infection, Manes says it’s possible for the infection to spread to nearby areas of the face and, in rare cases, result in a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

How to care for your nose piercing to avoid infection

It’s important to diligently take care of your new nose piercing to avoid infection – especially when the piercing is new and fresh.

Piercers typically provide clients with specific aftercare instructions. You can also follow these tips from Graf to avoid infection:

  1. Only go to reputable piercing shops that use sterile techniques and hypoallergenic jewelry.
  2. Using soap or saline solution, clean the piercing first thing in the morning and before you go to bed with clean hands.
  3. Avoid applying skin care products – such as sunscreen, creams, and serums – around the piercing until it is fully healed as these products can irritate the piercing.
  4. Avoid touching or playing with the piercing, since your hands carry bacteria and can result in an infection.
  5. Avoid swimming in natural bodies of water and swimming pools until your piercing is healed, since water can harbor bacteria.

It’s most important to follow the above steps while the piercing is still fresh and not yet fully healed. After that, you can become more lax with it.

“When your nose piercing has completely healed after several months, you can stop cleaning it as frequently and even start using mild, unscented soap occasionally to clean,” says Graf.

Insider’s takeaway

It can take around four to six months for a new nose piercing to completely heal, Graf says. This will depend on the individual and how diligently the aftercare routine is followed.

Any piercing, including nose piercings, has the potential to get infected, which in minor cases can cause discomfort and in severe cases can cause fevers, abscesses, and spread to other areas.

This is why it’s so important to take good care of your new piercing as soon as you leave the studio.

If you suspect an infection, and it doesn’t look too serious, try cleaning the site with a saline solution and reduce inflammation with a warm compress.

However, if the infection isn’t clearing up or worsening after a week of home treatment, Manes says you should make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

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