Find out whether you can go swimming after getting a body piercing, plus how long your piercing may take to heal and how to look after it and avoid infection.
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 it 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 – six to eight weeks
- top of the ear – six to eight weeks
- belly button (navel) – six months to one year
- nose – up to six months
- tongue – two to four weeks
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.