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.