I had a piercing on my navel and am not sure if it is developing an infection or not. How do you know if your piercing is infected?
- For most people, signs of an infection may include a bump, irritation, pain, green pus discharge and bleeding.
- Other symptoms include an abscess, blood blister or bubble, cyst and eventually a keloid in some cases.
- Irritation and inflammation can occur due to the ring (jewelry).
Here are pictures, treatment and how to heal an infected belly button piercing with including home remedies and antibiotics.
Poor piercing care is one of the major causes of infection. Infections can occur on fresh piercings as well as on old ones.
Some people report to have infections years after or 6 months after healing. The rate of infection, according to statistics, is also quite high compared to other forms of piercings.
Pictures (what it looks like)
How do you know your belly button is infected? What does it look like? here are pictures, image and photos throughout the page to help you identify unusual signs that may point to an infection.
How do you tell if your belly button piercing is infected or just irritated?
There are signs and symptoms to look for. Most people get confused and are not able to tell if it is just an irritation, bleeding from injury or if it’s red from of irritation.
The following quiz will help you know if it is healing or has an infection.
- Is the piercing bleeding yet it is not new? If yes, it could be a sign of infection. If it new and has minor bleeding, that is normal as it is in the early stages of healing.
- Is the piercing hole or area around irritated and shows redness? If yes for a new piercing, that is normal. If it had healed yet it is red, it is a sign of a disease developing.
- Do you feel unusual warmth and discharge in the navel? Warmth comes from bacterial activity. Discharge is the pus that forms due to the microbes being fought my white blood cells. This is a definite symptom of infection.
A navel piercing can get infected a few days after piercing. Signs cannot show on the same day you got an infection.
While fresh body piercings can be a source of discomfort even when they are still fresh, it does not mean they are infected.
However, it is good to know that even a healed belly button piercing can get infected. So, what causes these infections.
- Contaminated piercing equipment or guns
According to Anavelpiercing.com, “If you opt for piercing with a gun, you can’t be absolutely sure that it won’t cause any harm.”
These piercing equipment are known to be difficult to disinfect.
- Navel piercing jewelry
Most jewelry especially cheap and fake ones are a major cause of piercing infections since they break easily and cause irritation on the skin.
Some will cause allergic reactions. The risk of getting an infected belly button piercing is higher if the area has not healed.
- Poor aftercare
Your piercer must tell you how to care for the wound. Poor or lack of aftercare is one of the major causes of infections.
Touching the wound, poor cleaning techniques and lack of ventilation relate to the care procedures. Contaminating the area can only cause problems and diseases.
- Dirt (not cleaning the piercing)
Since piercings are similar to open wounds, accumulation of dirt will make it get an infection. Most people will get infected because they do not know how to keep the wound clean.
For example, if you work out, ensure that you clean your navel well to avoid accumulation of sweat. Lack of cleaning can lead to a bacterial or fungal infection on your piercing.
How long does it take for a navel piercing to heal? And does everyone’s navel piercing get infected during the healing period?
While trying to look out for any signs of an infection, it is important to know that it can take quite a long time for your piercing to completely heal.
It can take up to two years for navel piercings to heal completely. Some people may heal after about 9 months or one year.
During the healing period, you are at risk of infection. Taking good care of your navel, especially during the first few weeks can reduce the risk of getting an infection.
You must stick to your professional’s aftercare routine guide to minimize dangers, risks and problems. If you are unable to do this, see your doctor for help on wound care.
Symptoms of infection
Symptoms of an infection in a pierced navel may include an abscess, pain, green pus, serious irritation and sometimes itchiness.
These signs and symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the cause of the infection. The following are the common signs and symptoms to look out for.
1. Cyst or abscess with pus
If you notice an abscess on your navel after getting a piercing – a swollen pocket containing pus, this is likely a sign of infection.
According to WomenTribe, an abscess is an initial symptom of infection.
This might be accompanied by pain and some swelling. Further symptoms may be witnessed as the cyst or abscess advances to cellulitis.
If the cyst punctures, the abscess may discharge a clear liquid. At an advanced stage of infection, the color of the pus may change to grayish, then to yellowish to green pus.
A belly button discharge can mean so many things. But in general, discharge is a symptom of belly button piercing infection.
While urachal cysts are the main cause of drainage from navels, causes relating to your piercing may include thrush, yeast infections and bacterial infections.
If you see a discharge of any color oozing from your navel, see a doctor immediately for treatment.
3. Green pus
While still on discharge, a clear fluid oozing slowly from the navel, especially with a new piercing, might be normal. This is usually lymph fluid.
- However, green pus discharged from the navel can mean an infection is at an advanced stage.
- The yellowish-greenish pus is likely to have a foul smell.
- Most people notice that their belly buttons smell like cheese or poop due to these infections.
See a doctor as soon as possible if you have a foul-smelling discharge. If the color is yellow or green, it is also a positive sign of a bacterial infection.
4. Bump or keloid
A belly button piercing bump is not expected. Bumps may look like hard pimples, cysts or a rash on your navel area. It is important that if you see these, you get them treated fast.
Fungal infections on a pierced belly button are common and may have signs such as rash or pimples.
Keloids on the other hand may develop from the healing process. Keloids worsen if the area has an infection that won’t go away or keeps recurring. Keloids are likely to form closer to the navel piercing ring.
5. Irritation, redness and swelling
Irritation and swelling is normal for new piercings due to inflammation. This should however not last for more than a week or two.
Swelling and redness are signs of infection, especially after healing. The irritation comes from the activity of bacteria on the skin.
If your navel is swollen, apply a cold pack to relieve the swelling as you seek proper diagnosis and treatment.
My belly button piercing hurts (aches), what is the cause?
Pain and discomfort are major signs of something having gone wrong. For fresh piercings, a little pain is normal due to the bruise.
But for already healed navel piercings, hurting or throbbing aches are a sign of a developing infection.
While a slight pull of the belly button ring can make it hurt, the pain should subside rather quickly instead of increasing in intensity.
7. Bubble, blood blister or red spots
A blood blister is a small pocket filled with blood. These usually form around the piercing hole. Red spots are not always due to infections on navel piercings.
Mishandling of the ring can cause a bruise around the hole, causing a blood blister to form. You may also see red streaks and red spots.
However, in some instances, red spots and blood blister bubbles can be a symptom of an early cyst or abscess forming.
Avoid picking, bursting or popping it even if it is itchy to prevent further irritation and severe symptoms.
Itching is one sign of either a fungal infection or an allergic reaction. While itching can be caused by foreign irritants such as lint, contact dermatitis and bruising, some infections are if the piercing is still not healed yet it starts to itch, an infection is likely to have occurred.
Itching may be accompanied by a rash, dry skin around the navel and sometimes slight discharge, redness and swelling.
Some of these infected belly button piercing signs and symptoms may also relate to a rejection. If they are caused by an infection, failure to treat and get rid of the underlying disease could be dangerous and even cause death.
Infected ring during pregnancy
During pregnancy, holes and piercings around the belly button can be a source of discomfort and potential infections as the skin stretches.
When you are pregnant, there is likely to be weight gain and excess pressure on the skin around your belly.
This can lead to tearing and other forms of injuries that can cause infections on belly button ring or hole.
- It is advised that you only wear your navel ring or bar up to or before the end of the second trimester (6th month) of your pregnancy.
- Avoid wearing the ring after birth or postpartum.
- Allow yourself a few months before wearing it again.
Seek quick treatment if you get an infected navel piercing during pregnancy to avoid serious illnesses affecting the baby.
Treatments and care options can help get rid of infections on the belly ring area. If you practice proper aftercare before and after healing your piercings, you might be able to prevent infections.
After an infection though, here’s how to heal an infected navel piercing.
If you get an infection due to invasion by bacteria, antibiotics are recommended for healing it fast.
Prescription antibiotics are highly recommended to over-the-counter antibiotic medications.
As soon as you see any of the signs and symptoms discussed above, and severe ones such as fever and nausea, see a doctor immediately for proper treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe topical creams or oral antibiotics depending on the type and severity of the infection.
Common antibiotics that are known to cure an infected piercing fast include Polysporin, Bacitracin, Neosporin, Bactine and Mupirocin.
2. Tea tree oil remedy
Tea tree oil is one of the best home remedies for infected navel piercings and bumps. It has both antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.
If you are looking to heal a navel piercing naturally at home, you can apply this treatment as follows.
- Dilute a little tea tree oil in a glass.
- Use cotton swabs or cotton balls to apply the oil on your belly button.
- Allow to dry and leave it there if it does not cause irritation.
Tea tree oil will fix the belly ring infection by dehydrating it. It will get rid of bumps in the navel area. If the infection comes from gram-negative bacteria, this home remedy will kill them. Do NOT use tea tree oil if you have a sensitive skin.
3. Use sea salt water solution
A saline solution made from sea salt can also help. This treatment should mostly be applied after washing or bathing in order to reduce dampness in the navel area.
According to the National Health Service (UK), a saline solution will remove any water and discourage the growth of bacteria. Here’s how to fix an infected piercing using sea salt solution.
- To a glass of lukewarm water, add ¼ teaspoon of sea salt.
- Stir to make a solution.
- Wet a clean piece of gauze or cloth in this solution.
- Apply it on the infected area as a warm compress. Alternatively, clean the area gently or submerge the navel with this solution.
- Allow a few minutes and then gently dry the area using a clean piece of cloth or paper towel.
4. Epsom salt
Another saline solution to treat a navel infection at home is Epsom salt. Epsom is magnesium sulfate and can help to not only reduce chances of an infection but also heal it altogether. It is easy to use.
Simply have an Epsom salt bath and have it regularly
5. Apply a cold compress
A cold compress is helpful if the area is swollen, inflamed or is aching. For a bruised and swollen skin, wrap a cold pack in a clean towel and apply it on to the infected area.
Avoid placing ice directly onto your skin. It will damage the tissues and slow down the healing process.
6. Warm compresses
Warm compresses will help improve the flow of blood to the infected area. This will speed up the healing process.
Ensure that you apply a warm compress on the navel daily for about 20 minutes. This will help make pus (if any) drain faster and make the infection heal faster.
7. White vinegar
You can use this to stop the discharge from an infected navel piercing. White vinegar is acidic and can help stop infections from spreading.
Here’s how to heal a pierced belly button with infection using white vinegar.
- Mix two parts of warm water with two parts of white vinegar.
- Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it on the belly button piercing wound.
- Leave it for about 15 minutes.
- Rinse the wound using warm water.
- Pat dry using a clean towel.
Repeat this treatment two to three times a day until the infection goes away.
Other home remedies
Other than the above cures to heal navel piercings fast, a few home treatments and care tips can go a long way in preventing and treating the disease.
- Antibiotic creams and ointments can be used especially if you have a skin rash around the navel. These can also help if your belly button is itching. However, if the area starts to develop a rash after you start applying the OTC ointment, stop it because it could be an allergic reaction. If you apply antibiotic ointments on body piercings, remove any excess. This will ensure that the pierced area is well ventilated to prevent any anaerobic bacterial activity that can make the wound rot.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing on the pierced area. These are known to irritate the pierced area and create an environment for bacteria to thrive.
- Clean the area with antibacterial soap and a lot of warm water. Do this up to 4 times a day. This will help prevent infections on your navel piercings.
- When you remove your belly button piercing jewelry, clean it in hot soapy water.
- Avoid picking, touching and scratching the area. If you feel irritated, get anti-itch medications and creams to reduce the discomfort.
In order to heal quickly, observe the following care tips. You might have to avoid some of your hobbies such as swimming.
- Avoid swimming. Swimming pools, lakes and tubs may harbor a lot of bacteria that can cause you an infection.
- Do not apply hydrogen peroxide solution or alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide will sting and irritate the area. It will also dry the skin and kill healing cells around the wound. This does not help the healing process of your body piercing.
- Wear loose fitting clothing. Tight clothing can make the navel piercing bar stick and cause injuries.
- For choice of rings, choose from the following types: platinum, gold, titanium, platinum, surgical steel and niobium. If it has to be golden, choose 14-karat or 18-karat.
- Avoid touching the area. The piercing will heal faster if you do not disturb it.
- Knowing what to clean belly button piercing with is also important. Avoid harsh soaps and solutions because they will irritate your skin and even cause an allergic reaction.
- Do a couple of saline soaks or clean with a Q-tip to prevent bacteria and germs from growing on your navel. For the soak, invert a cup with a saline solution over your navel. This will make a vacuum or a suction seal between the navel and the cup. Let the area soak for at least 10 minutes, then rinse using plain water. Afterwards, thoroughly dry the area.
- Keep your hands clean all the time.
- Try to avoid using soaps and other products such as moisturizers that are scented. Don’t use products with animal fats.
When it comes to cleaning and jewelry, Salibury.edu recommend that you always leave your navel ring in its hole.
This will always ensure that the infected belly button piercing drains properly. If you remove it, an abscess is likely to form in the hole.
In case any abscesses form, avoid draining them on your own, especially if you are not an expert or have no prior experience.
If you suffer any serious symptoms of infection such as warmth to the touch, fever, shivering and pain, see a doctor as soon as possible for proper treatment.
Sources and references
- National Health Service: Body piercing – Aftercare
- WebMD: Body Piercing Problems – Home Treatment
- Salibury University: Acute Care: Injuries and Illnesses: BODY PIERCING INFECTIONS
- University Health Services, Tang Center: Body Piercing: Cleaning and Healing