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Can I go swimming after a piercing?

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You should avoid swimming for at least 24 hours after having a piercing, and ideally until it has healed properly. While it's still healing, it's important to keep the piercing dry as there's a risk of infection.

How long will a piercing take to heal?

A new body piercing may be red and tender for a few weeks. The healing time for a body piercing can vary depending on which part of your body is pierced and how well you look after it.

As a general guide, healing times for the most common body piercings can be:

  • ear lobe – 6 to 8 weeks
  • top of the ear – 6 to 8 weeks
  • belly button (navel) – 6 months to 1 year
  • nose – up to 6 months
  • tongue – 2 to 4 weeks

Swimming after a piercing

It's possible to pick up an infection from any body of water, so while your piercing heals you should avoid swimming in:

  • swimming pools
  • streams, lakes and rivers
  • the sea

You should also avoid using hot tubs.

Signs of infection

Your piercing may be infected if:

  • it's red and swollen
  • it feels warm
  • it's painful – particularly if it's throbbing or the pain is spreading
  • there's discharge coming from the piercing, which may be yellow or green and foul-smelling

If you have any signs of infection, see your GP.

Looking after your piercing

After having a piercing, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. You may be advised to gently clean the area with a warm saline or salt water solution.

However, the piercing should be cleaned no more than is necessary to keep it clean, as over-cleaning can irritate the skin and delay healing. It's not normally necessary to rotate or remove a piece of jewellery.

To clean the piercing, submerge the area in a warm saline or salt water solution for 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, soak a clean cloth in the solution and apply to the area. Once any discharge has softened, you can clean it with a cotton bud or piece of gauze.

Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap, and dry them with a disposable towel before touching or washing your piercing.

Ensure any clothing and bedding that may come into contact with the area around the piercing is clean.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.