Below are the instructions provided by Dr. Ryan Neinstein, Plastic Surgeon MD, on how to properly treat a belly button piercing infection. Follow these instructions closely and carefully. DO NOT remove the jewelry, especially if you are experiencing drainage. If you remove the jewelry, the piercing will not drain properly and the bacteria will get trapped inside your body, which can cause an abscess to form as the hole closes up. Wash your hand with antibacterial soap before you proceed to clean your piercing. Clean the piercing with a saline solution or a salt water mixture (1 tsp. of sea salt and 5 oz. of warm water). You can use a clean cotton swab to rub the solution on the piercing, or you can turn the cup with the solution upside down on your piercing while laying down to submerge it completely for 10 minutes.
This will kill the bacteria causing the infection. Do this no more than twice a day. Consider using an antiseptic cream for a mild infection (not an ointment). You don\’t want to leave a gob of it around the piercing, as this can attract more bacteria. Just put a little on the piercing and wipe away the excess. Try carefully pushing the jewelry in and out so that you can get some of the antibiotic cream into the wound. If there isn\’t any pus, consider using a hot compress to increase blood circulation to the area. (Make sure to disinfect the compress with hot water and salt. ) Wipe the area dry after using. If there is pus, you can try using hydrogen peroxide to help drain the pus and clean the area, but NEVER overuse hydrogen peroxideвdon\’t use it more often than once a dayвand do not use it as an aftercare option on a new piercing, as it can dry it out and irritate it.
Don\’t use alcohol either as this can dry out the area and create further cracking and irritation, and in some cases, spread an existing infection. You can also apply some diluted tea tree oil, but don\’t do this more than two to three times a week because tea tree oil is very astringent and extremely drying. Avoid tea tree oil if you have sensitive skin. Go to the doctor immediately if you experience fever or nausea. You may need antibiotics, especially if the infection is spreading.
If you think that your belly button piercing is infected, don\’t ignore the symptoms and hope the infection goes away on its own. You want to treat it before it develops into an abscess or spreads to your abdomen.
Excessive bleeding and nerve damage. This can be caused by an inexperienced body piercer that pierces too close to a nerve. Overcleaning. It is possible to hurt the tissue with too much cleaning. Don\’t overdo it! Follow your piercer\’s instructions. Changing the jewelry too soon. Another common no-no. It can take eight weeks to six months before you are healed enough to fiddle with jewelry. Again, follow your piercer\’s instructions. Frictional irritation. Sometimes the friction from your clothing or waistband may irritate and delay healing.
Tearing. Navel piercings are less likely to tear than those in other spots (like the ears), but it is possible for jewelry to get caught and tear. Stretching. If a piercing is too shallow or close to the edge, a stretch may enlarge it too much. Heavy jewelry, tears, rejection, and migration can alter the shape of the fistula. Some people have to have the doctor fix the hole by sewing it smaller. Bacterial endocarditis or infective endocarditis (IE). If you suffer from congenital heart disease and you\’re exposed to bacteria via piercing, you\’re at risk, and it could even be fatal. This is why reputable, professional piercers ask you about your heart before they do anything.