How To Treat An Infected Nose Piercing? Care And Prevention

Protect your nose adornment to keep it looking pretty!

Written by , MA Gracia Odile MA Experience: 3 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Madhumati Chowdhury MA (English Literature) Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Comparative Literature) Vaishali Sinha MA (Comparative Literature) Experience: 5 years
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The practice of piercing the nose has transformed over the ages from its ancient cultural roots to carry a modern aesthetic appeal. Though getting it is all fun and exciting, people sometimes overlook the risk of an infected nose piercing. Yes, just like other piercings, this one gets infected too! In fact, according to a national survey of 5,000 individuals in France with piercings at sites like the nose, ear, and tongue, 44% reported having infections (1). With such a high incidence of the risk of infections, it is important to look after your nose piercing, especially when it is new and still healing. To do so, you must recognize the causes and signs of an infected nose piercing and be aware of preventive measures and treatment options. In this article, we will delve into all this and more in detail to help you with a complication-free healing journey. Read on!

What Does An Infected Nose Piercing Look Like?

Image: Shutterstock

The severity of your infection influences the appearance of your piercing infection. A mildly infected nose piercing may typically appear red, swollen, and inflamed. As your infection worsens, the redness and inflammation may increase and can extend beyond the immediate area of the piercing. Pus or discharge may also start to emerge from the piercing site, indicating a more advanced stage of infection.

However, sometimes a healing piercing can also be mistaken for a mild infection, wherein it is normal to have some inflammation and redness around the piercing site. This is an immune response that usually occurs to initiate the healing process (2). You may also experience slight pus or a crusty yellowish discharge.

Lauren, a blogger, shared experiencing something similar with her nose piercing. Her piercing bled quite a few times during the first few days. However, her piercer suggested that it was normal. Then, on the 7th day, she experienced something that made her wonder about a nose piercing infection. She writes, “There was a little yellow crustiness around it this morning, but I simply wiped it away with a cotton bud. After a lot of research online, apparently, this is normal and nothing to worry about as infections have different symptoms (i).”

This shows that the way your infected piercing looks is not enough to confirm you have a nose piercing infection. Along with factors like redness and swelling, a few more symptoms, listed below, can help discern if there really is a cause for concern.

How Do I Know If My Nose Piercing Is Infected?

Image: Shutterstock

While some pain and discomfort is normal during the initial healing period of a nose piercing, an increase in pain, especially after the first few days, could be a sign of infection. Along with it, some other symptoms listed below can help you confirm that it is really an infection and not just your piercing’s healing process.

  • Localized pain in the nose area as well as tenderness and a throbbing sensation.
  • May feel warm or hot to the touch due to increased blood flow and inflammation.
  • May experience pus-like discharge with a yellow or greenish color and an unpleasant odor.
  • Increased sensitivity of the piercing site to touch and pressure.
  • Pus or blood-filled small pimples or abscess near the piercing area.

Getting a nose piercing infection is a bummer. But why does it happen? Read the following section to know more.

Causes Of Nose Piercing Infection

Image: Shutterstock

When it comes to body piercings, like that on your nose, using non-sterilized and improperly cleaned piercing equipment may contribute to the increased risk of infection (3). One such type of equipment that may be hard to clean is a piercing gun. Generally, piercing studios sterilize their needles, jewelry, or any tools used during the process in an autoclave, a machine that uses heat from steam under pressure to kill harmful germs. However, it is impossible to sterilize a piercing gun in it, as the gun is made of plastic that may melt in the autoclave’s high heat. Since the equipment cannot be sufficiently cleaned between use on multiple clients, it may carry some bacteria like pseudomonas that are linked with infected nose piercings (3).

Apart from the use of improperly cleaned piercing equipment, there are some other causes of infected nose piercings, as listed below:

  • You may experience an allergic reaction to certain materials used in nose jewelry like nickel, chromium, and cobalt (4).
  • Lack of proper aftercare practices like touching the piercing with dirty hands, may introduce bacteria and make the piercing susceptible to infections.
  • Exposure to dirt, dust, moisture, or other contaminants in the environment may also increase the risk of potential complications.
  • Accidental trauma or injury to the nose piercing site may disrupt its healing process and increase the risk of infection.

In addition to this, individuals with a compromised immune system may also experience body piercing infections. This may be because a weak immune system affects the body’s response to infections, leading to impaired healing and increased risk of infection (5).

protip_icon Did You Know?
Nose piercing roots can be traced to ancient cultures from thousands of years ago, where they held significance as a symbol of social status and religious beliefs. For instance, they were an indication of a woman’s married status in ancient India.

When it comes to an infected nose piercing, taking prompt action is crucial to prevent the infection from worsening. But worry not, as it is a common issue, and it is possible to self-treat. Read the following section to find out how to heal an infected nose piercing at home.

How To Treat An Infected Nose Piercing

When it comes to body piercing infections, conservative treatments like warm compress may help to some extent. You may also opt for topical or oral antibiotics for infections, like bacitracin and cephalexin (3). Although it is recommended to consult with a medical professional before using any medication, here are some general guidelines for how you can handle your infected nose piercing:

  • Wash your hands with a mild soap and water before touching the piercing.
  • Clean the piercing with a saline solution. You can prepare it by mixing two teaspoons of non-iodized sea salt with four cups of distilled water. You can also try an antiseptic solution, like betadine, to clean the site.
  • Use a warm compress to calm the inflamed skin and get some relief from the pain. To do this, soak a clean cloth in warm water and press it gently to the infected area for a few minutes.
  • Pat dry the area with a paper towel and apply prescribed antibiotic ointments. Do this 2-3 times a day, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Before following these simple steps, it is also important that you remove your piercing jewelry. If you are worried that this may close the hole, you may place a loose loop suture through the piercing as a placeholder throughout your infection treatment (3). Once the infection heals, you may wear your regular jewelry piece/s.

  • Additionally, below are some preventive measures you may follow to keep the infections from worsening:
  • Avoid using harsh cleansers, alcohol-based products, and hydrogen peroxide, as they may irritate the infection site.
  • Be cautious when drying your face or changing clothes to avoid accidentally hurting the infected piercing.
  • Avoid using makeup and skincare products on and around your nose, as they may further irritate the area.
  • Avoid picking at the infected site. Just keep the area clean and sterilized to prevent the infection from worsening.
protip_icon Quick Tip
You may also apply a cold compress to your nose stud infections by wrapping an ice cube in a clean cloth and placing it on the site for 2-3 minutes. While it may not help treat the infestation, it may still provide short-term relief from pain and bring down the swelling.

Complications arising from nose piercing infections are rare. But if it does not get better even after a week of home treatment, delaying medical attention may lead to the infection worsening. Read below to find out when exactly you should contact a doctor for your nose piercing infection.

When To See A Doctor For An Infected Nose Piercing

A piercer examines a nose piercing for infection
Image: Shutterstock

A delay in the treatment of your nose piercing infection may lead to abscess formation (3). If you notice such an occurrence, visit a doctor immediately. If it is small, they may prescribe you some oral antibiotics for it; however, if it is large, they may also drain it using sterile tools. Please note that it is not recommended to drain the abscess yourself, as it may only introduce more bacteria into the wounded skin and worsen the infection. Apart from this, if you experience a high fever with your nose piercing infection, seek medical advice immediately, as a fever is linked with severe infections (6).

The best way to prevent a nose piercing infection is by letting your new piercing heal successfully. The following section will take you through some simple tips you can follow to minimize the risk of infections.

How To Prevent A Nose Piercing Infection

Image: Shutterstock

Below is a list of instructions to ensure that your nose piercing stays infection-free:

  • Ensure that it is done by a licensed and professional piercer in a clean and sterile environment.
  • Avoid getting pierced with a gun, as they are hard to sterilize, which may increase the risk of infection.
  • Ensure that the jewelry used is made of suitable materials, such as surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, or gold, and that you are not allergic to them.
  • Do not change the jewelry before the recommended healing time, as it may irritate the site and even lead to the closure of the piercing hole.
  • Try not to touch your piercing unnecessarily. If you need to adjust or clean it, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water, and use a gentle touch.
  • Keep hair care, skin care, and makeup products away from the healing piercing site, as they may introduce additional irritants and increase infection risk.
  • Ensure that your bedding, clothing, and personal items that come into contact with the new piercing are clean.
  • Avoid swimming in hot tubs, pools, and other natural bodies of water until your piercing is fully healed, as these environments may harbor bacteria that may lead to severe infections.
  • Avoid wearing scarves or high-collared shirts that may snag on the piercing and cause trauma to it. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothing.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, pain, or discharge with an unusual color or odor. If you notice any of these signs, seek medical help immediately.

The primary reasons behind an infected nose piercing is either negligence in taking care of it during its healing process, or an unclean piercing environment. Ideally, the healing time of this kind of piercing may range from 3 to 6 months to even a year, depending on its location. For instance, a pierced nostril may heal completely in 3 to 4 months, while a rhino piercing may take nearly a full year to heal. If you experience an infected piercing during this time, effectively addressing it requires a combination of timely recognition of the infection symptoms and attentive care. The latter includes cleaning the infected piercing site with saline solution, avoiding irritants, and practicing good hygiene. Additionally, seeking professional advice if symptoms persist or worsen is important to ensure proper treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after getting a nose piercing can an infection occur?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that after getting a nose piercing, the highest risk of infection is during the first few days to a week. This may be because during this time the piercing site is considered an open wound, making it susceptible to germs and bacteria. Keeping the area clean during this period is critical.

Can a nose piercing infection kill you?

No, it is unlikely that a nose piercing infection may kill you, especially if it is treated timely. However, if left untreated, the infection may spread further and lead to sepsis which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to infection triggers a widespread inflammatory reaction. If not treated promptly, sepsis may be fatal (7).

Key Takeaways

  • Non-sterilized piercing equipment, allergic reactions to jewelry metals, and lack of proper aftercare practices may contribute to the increased risk of nose piercing infection.
  • Signs of this infection include increased pain, throbbing sensations, warmth to the touch, and pus-like discharge with an unpleasant odor.
  • Conservative treatments for it include cleaning with a saline solution, using a warm compress, and applying topical antibiotics prescribed by a medical professional.
  • If home treatment does not improve the infection after a week, or if there is an abscess formation, seeking medical attention is recommended to prevent further complications.

An infected nose piercing can bring along pain, swelling, and numerous other complications. If you are dealing with one and unsure how to treat it, check out the video below for information on how to handle it.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Body piercing: A national survey in France
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30404090/
  2. About inflammation and infection
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564704/
  3. Body piercing infections
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537336/
  4. Metal allergy: State-of-the-art mechanisms, biomarkers, hypersensitivity to implants
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9739320/
  5. The dynamics of the skin’s immune system
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515324/
  6. Physiology, fever
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562334/
  7. Body piercing with fatal consequences
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062280/
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