Infected Belly Button Piercings: Symptoms & Treatment

Infected Belly Button Piercings: Symptoms & Treatment

You were counting down the days until you got your belly button pierced and now that it has happened, you’re starting to worry something is going wrong. You aren’t sure your piercing should look like this, and you’re wondering how you can tell whether it’s an infected belly button piercing.

Belly button piercing infections are unfortunately an unwanted side effect for some people, so you’re smart to be on the lookout for any signs that an infection is setting in.

Sometimes, a belly button piercing that is healing without any complications can still look pretty bad, especially in the first few days and weeks, so don’t begin to worry too soon. This is why it’s all the more important to be vigilant as your piercing continues to heal.

So, how do you know when something is going wrong?

In this article, we’ll go through and explain all the warning signs and symptoms to help ensure your new piercing heals as best as it possibly can without a hitch, and we’ll also walk you through what to do in the event of an infection setting in.

Infected Belly Button Piercing

What Is A Belly Button Piercing infection?

Most people don’t think they’ll be the ones to end up with an infected belly button piercing. They picture how cool they’ll look when they’re able to wear their midriff-baring shirts and show off their bling.

Unfortunately, the reality is that some people will end up with belly button infections.

In the days and even weeks following a belly button piercing, the piercing site is an open wound. Like any other open wound, it’s susceptible to developing an infection.

All it takes is for germs and bacteria to make their way into the skin before enough healing has taken place to protect the skin.

A person’s immune system, especially if it is compromised or weakened in any way, isn’t always able to fight off these infections.

The infections cause death and damage to the tissue around the piercing. That damage can begin occurring before a person even suspects there’s an infection brewing.

Sometimes people might suspect they have an infection, but they wait a few days just to make sure before spending the money to go to the doctor. A lot of skin damage can take place during that time.

However, knowing when to head to the doctor can be tricky – you don’t want to look like a hypochondriac if you head to the doctor’s office and it turns out you are healing just fine.

Still, you also don’t want to wait too long to hightail it into the doctor’s office. Some infections are mild and easy to treat, while others are more complicated. Even mild infections can get out of control quickly if they aren’t treated properly.

Infections that are only located in the area of the piercing and haven’t spread elsewhere are the easiest to treat. They often don’t take long to knock out, when you follow the instructions your doctor gives you.

However, if you allow a suspected infection to keep going because you want to avoid seeing the doctor, you could end up with a life-threatening condition. If that infection spreads throughout your body, it could even lead to death.

Hang on; before you start writing your will, you should realize that the chances of that happening are very slim, and it won’t happen out of the blue.

You’ll be able to recognize long before then that there is an infection, and hopefully by reading this information, you’ll know you should head to the doctor at the first sign of trouble.

Even if you think the infection is small and you can fight it off by boosting up your immune system with vitamins and extra sleep, you need to take it seriously.

Knowing how and why infections occur can give you the ammunition to prevent it from happening in the first place, and prevention is always the best medicine.

What Causes Belly Button Piercing Infections?

In the world of bacteria, there are two kinds – harmful bacteria and good bacteria. You’ve likely heard about the good types of bacteria, like probiotics. They can help your immune system keep functioning well.

Belly button piercing infections, on the other hand, are caused by harmful bacteria getting into the piercing wound. Once they’re in, if your immune system doesn’t fight them off, they start to multiply.

They can get there in a variety of ways. By understanding how they get in there in the first place, you’ll be able to lessen your risk of letting that happen.

A Piercer Who Doesn’t Use Sterile Equipment

Not all piercers put a high emphasis on using sterile equipment. Some piercers are way more concerned about getting your money than they are about what happens to you when their job is done.

They may not be sterilizing their equipment at all, or they could be sterilizing it incorrectly. If sterile equipment isn’t used, you can end up with a lot of bacteria in your wound.

You might not have a fighting chance at dodging infection. From the moment you leave that shop, those bacteria can be multiplying like Gremlins in your piercing site.

The best way to dodge this bullet is by talking to your piercer about how they sterilize their equipment. You can often tell by talking to someone for a few minutes about how much care and effort they put into their services.

Another thing to avoid is a well-meaning friend who offers to do your piercing. They might genuinely be trying to help you out, but they likely won’t know everything they need to know about how to safely perform the piercing.

If a friend offers to do your piercing, politely tell them no. If they don’t want to take no for an answer, tell them you already have an appointment booked or be honest about wanting a professional to do the work.

Look for a good piercer who has a great reputation. Listen to your gut feeling when talking to a piercer and if you see anything that seems a bit sketchy, walk out of there and look for another piercer. That will give you a much better chance of staying infection-free.

Using a more experienced professional may mean a more expensive belly button piercing, but it will be worth it in the long run.

The Method Of Piercing

When you get your belly button pierced, you should always ask your piercer which piercing method he uses – a piercing gun or a hollow needle.

If he says he uses a piercing gun, you should run out of that shop as fast as you can. Don’t look back or consider using that piercer no matter how cheap his rates are.

It may seem like a deal right now, but it won’t seem like such a bargain when you’re dealing with an out-of-control infection and big bills for doctor’s visits and medicine.

There are multiple reasons you should stay away from piercing guns on your belly button area. They cause more tissue damage to surrounding skin at the piercing site than hollow needles do. That means a more painful experience and potentially a longer recovery time.

If the piercing gun isn’t a single-use gun, you run the risk of introducing tissue and blood into your belly button area from the last person who was pierced.

Even if your piercer cleans the gun between uses, they might still be cleaning and sterilizing it inadequately. It’s not worth the chance.

Your piercer should be using a new hollow needle and you shouldn’t accept any other method. Before he begins the piercing, he should wash his hands and put on new disposable gloves.

Your Hands

You can accidentally introduce a lot of germs into your piercing site just by touching and fiddling with your piercing.

Before you touch your new piercing, you need to make sure you’ve thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water. When you’re working on cleaning your piercing, try not to touch the area more than you have to.

And when you aren’t in the process of cleaning your belly button piercing, keep your hands away from the area. It will heal faster if you aren’t constantly messing with it and you’ll keep bacteria away just from not touching it.

You should also be on the lookout for other ways you might unknowingly infect your piercing without even touching it. You’ll want to stay away from submerging your piercing in water that could potentially be harboring harmful bacteria.

That means you should stay away from pools and baths for a couple of weeks as your piercing begins to heal.

Poor Cleaning

Although it may be a pain in the butt for the first couple of weeks after a piercing, committing time every day, several times a day, to cleaning it is a necessity.

A quick guide to cleaning a new piercing:

If you don’t keep up with the sea salt water rinses and washing your hands, you might pay the price by developing an infection.

It will only take a few minutes at a time, but it might mean the difference between sailing through your belly button piercing or ending up with an infection.

That’s definitely worth the time you’ll put into keeping your piercing clean.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.

Bad Aftercare Directions

This is just one more reason why you should go to an experienced piercer. They’ll have their aftercare instructions down to a science. They’ll tell you what you need to do and how often you’ll have to do it.

New piercers or those who aren’t as concerned about sanitation won’t be as organized or thorough when it comes to aftercare instructions. Those aftercare instructions can be your best defense against infections.

Picking Off Scabs

You may find that your piercing site starts forming scabs. It seems like some people can’t resist peeling off scabs. Nevertheless, if a scab is there, it means your body is trying to properly heal a wound. Leave it in place and let it fall off naturally.

You’ll avoid reopening the wound, which will help keep it safer from infection. Scabs form for a reason – don’t mess with them!

Also, be aware that getting a double belly button piercing will mean more scabbing, so keep this in mind – it will mean there will be a slightly higher chance of getting a piece of scab ripped off.

Finally, sometimes a rejected belly button piercing can cause scabbing around the area, so be careful if this happens to you.

Is My Belly Button Piercing Infected? – Signs & Symptoms Of Belly Button Piercing Infections

It can be hard to know when your piercing is starting to get an infection, but knowing what’s normal and what isn’t can help you decide when to give your doctor a call.

Infection or stretch mark? Sometimes other issues can be mistaken as an infection, and vise-versa.

Here are some things that are perfectly normal in the first days to weeks after your belly button piercing. You may have a little bit of blood and crust that forms over the wound. In addition to that, you’ll have some pain, redness, and swelling.

As healing begins, your skin may start to feel itchy. If you see or feel these things happening, just remember it doesn’t necessarily mean there is an infection present.

So how do you know when an infection is a possibility? There are several ways you can spot things that aren’t normal and could mean an infection is present.

Increased Pain

Your level of soreness and pain can vary from day to day, depending upon your activity level and how tight your clothes are.

So while you should expect some pain, it shouldn’t be getting dramatically worse. If you notice a sharp increase in pain and you haven’t changed your routine or physical activity, you should pay attention to other signs of infection.

Staying on the lookout for other signs of trouble will help you nip any infections in the bud.

Strange-Looking Discharge

You’ll likely have some small discharge from your piercing, even when it isn’t infected.

Although, if you notice more discharge in the days following the piercing, pay attention to the color and how it smells.

If it smells bad and it’s yellowish instead of clear, this may be a sign of infection. Call your doctor at this point so you can begin to treat it immediately.


If you see a fluid-filled cyst at the piercing site, that’s a clear sign you may have an infection. The drainage might be clear in the beginning, but as the infection starts to gain traction, the color can change.

Red, Hot-Feeling Skin

You’re going to have redness following your piercing. However, if it starts to get worse and the skin also feels hot to the touch, it could mean you have a problem.

If you notice any red streaks in the skin near the piercing site, this is definitely a sign of infection. Don’t put off calling the doctor at this point.


If you have signs of infection at the site and you also come down with a fever, you need to book an appointment as soon as possible. If your doctor is already booked up for the day, you should go to a walk-in clinic.

A fever can mean that the infection has spread beyond the piercing site. It’s more important than ever to seek prompt medical attention.

How To Treat An Infected Belly Button Piercing

Although the first thing you might want to do when you’ve developed an infection in your belly button piercing is to take out the jewelry, you shouldn’t do that.

That jewelry is allowing the hole to stay open, and as long as the hole stays open, the infection can drain out instead of staying inside your body. So make sure no matter how much you might want to take out your jewelry, that you leave your piercing in.

Depending upon the severity of your infection and how far that infection has spread, you will likely be instructed to do several things to help clear the infection.

If the infection appears to be mild and is in the early stages, you won’t have a fever and you won’t notice any red streaking from the wound.

If it’s mild and you feel comfortable doing so, you can try to treat it for a day or two at home before calling the doctor.

Before you touch your belly button piercing in any way, make sure to always wash your hands. You don’t want to introduce any new bacteria while you’re trying to fight the existing infection.

Every day, several times a day if you can afford the time, put a wet washcloth dipped in warm water on the infection. That moist heat will help the discharge drain out. Anything that gets the infection drained out of the body will promote healing.

In the meantime, keep doing the sea salt soaks that were a part of your aftercare instructions.

If the infection seems to be worse in a day or so, call the doctor. You’ll probably also be given an antibiotic ointment to put on your skin several times a day.

If your infection appears to be raging by the time you’ve finally figured out what the problem is, you may see red streaking from the piercing site. You may also have a fever and chills.

If it has reached this point, you should call the doctor right away. You’ll probably be given antibiotics to prevent worsening complications.

What Happens After A Belly Button Piercing Infection?

After you’ve had a belly button piercing infection, it can take weeks or months for the infection to fully clear.

You should keep up with any instructions your doctor gives you for clearing the infection. Make sure to follow them fully. Don’t stop taking your antibiotics when your infection looks better – take them for as long as the doctor tells you to.

When you get to the point of changing your jewelry, make sure you stick to high-quality jewelry. You should also stick to metals that cause fewer allergies, like gold or titanium, if you’ve shown any signs of an allergic reaction to metals you’ve used in prior piercings.

Allergic reactions may lead to conditions that make you more prone to infections.

After you’ve had one infection, it’s good to remember that you could end up in this same situation again, even months down the road.

While most belly button piercing infections happen in the first couple weeks, they can happen at any point after you’ve had your belly button pierced, even months or years later.

The key is always remaining on the lookout for signs of trouble and remembering that you should take an infection seriously, even if you’ve successfully dealt with one before.

If you aren’t prompt and aggressive about treating infections from belly button piercings, you may end up with a scar or a keloid on your piercing site. That wasn’t exactly the sexy look you were after when you first decided to pierce your belly button.

How To Prevent Belly Button Piercing Infections In The Future

Making sure you use high-quality jewelry is one of the best ways to prevent future infections. Low-quality jewelry is often made of cheap materials. Cheap metals, besides causing allergic reactions, can easily break.

When jewelry breaks while you’re wearing it, you can get scratched or punctured. That little injury will cause some pain and it gives you a greater risk of getting an infection than healthy skin does.

When you’re on a tight budget, it can be tempting to trade belly bling with your friend for the night so you can freshen up your look. However, wearing someone else’s belly button jewelry is a really bad idea and it can lead to infection.

Even if you try to properly clean or sanitize your friend’s jewelry, it still carries a lot of risk. It’s hard to fully sanitize the jewelry and a simple dousing with alcohol won’t do it. Used jewelry will have a lot of hard-to-see scratches that will make it tricky to clean.

While no one can stop you from wearing used jewelry, you need to be aware that you could be spending a lot more in the long run on treatment for your new infection.


No one ever gets their belly button pierced imagining they’ll be one of the unlucky ones who ends up with an infection, but it happens. The key to dealing with it is to do everything in your power to make it better.

While dealing with the infection can be a major bummer, it’s important to keep in mind that if you keep following instructions, your infection will get better, and healing times will improve.

In the future, you’ll be better prepared. You’ll know exactly what you have to do to avoid getting a belly button piercing infection, and before long, your beautiful navel will be all healed up and ready to show off.