Historically, body piercing was used to celebrate milestones in a person’s life or as a custom, depending on the culture. In modern society they are used to decorate the body and as a fashion accessory.
Body piercing can, however, have some very serious consequences if some basic hygiene measures are not adhered to.
As for any piercing, ensure the skin is clean and dry before having a piercing. Always make sure that the technician you have selected to do the piercing is qualified, experienced and trained in principles of sterility, has single-use items and has an up to date and functioning autoclave (device used for sterilising equipment). Do not be embarrassed to ask for proof of these items, they are used to it. There are no laws stating who can trade as a body piercer, but there is training available to those who want to be a conscientious practitioner.
Before carrying out the piercing, make sure the piercer has washed their hands and has applied gloves. They should clean the area to be pierced with a suitable solution.
After the piercing, you should be provided with some after care instructions to take home; if not please do ask for instructions, most infections related to piercing occur as a consequence of incorrect aftercare, not from the actual piercing itself.
Avoid touching the piercing, unless for cleansing purposes, during the healing process. The hands and nails harbour many germs and a piercing provides a very attractive environment for breeding. When attending to the jewellery, get all equipment needed ready and wash hands thoroughly. The piercing should be cleaned at least three times a day using a saline solution and cotton gauze. Bathe the area to loosen any flakiness or crusts. If the area is becoming inflamed or sore the use of an anti-microbial soap may be beneficial.
Dry the area gently using a single-use item such as paper-towels. Dispose of items immediately.
Oral piercings carry greater risks of infection, especially whilst healing, as the mouth contains many bacteria that can infect the site. Risks include blood poisoning, airway blockage and nerve damage. Oral hygiene is especially important whilst the piercing is healing. Use an antiseptic mouthwash after each meal to help remove bacteria and debris from becoming trapped around the piercing. Include the jewellery when brushing the teeth and make sure all sides and angles are given attention.
Ask your dentist or oral hygienist for advice, and make sure you have regular check-ups.
It is not advisable to engage in any sexual activity whilst healing is taking place, trauma to the site can induce inflammation and therefore infection.
Avoid oral sex until the site has healed as the mouth contains germs that may be transmitted to the piercing resulting in an infection. Use plenty of water-based lubricant during sexual activity whilst healing is taking place, to lessen friction and reduce trauma.
Always dry the area after urinating to avoid build-up of bacteria, washing with warm water and drying when able.
If your piercing becomes very red, swollen, weeping pus or bleeding, please do see your GP who may suggest a course of anti-biotics to fight the infection. The piercing will probably need to be removed.