Nose Piercing Infections: Symptoms & Treatment Guide

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: November 28, 2020

You recently had your nose pierced and you’re starting to become concerned; wondering if it should look like it does. Is this normal? Or is this train starting to go off the rails? Infected nose piercings are unfortunately a very real possibility.

Infections in highly visible places, like your nose, can be troublesome. It’s not like a belly button piercing that you can hide with a shirt until it’s all better. It’s one of the most prominent features on your face – and everyone can potentially notice it until you get it taken care of.

This guide will help you figure out what’s up with your sniffer and how you can tell when a nose piercing has gone from okay to infected.


What Is A Nose Piercing Infection?

When you have a deep puncture like a piercing requires, harmful opportunistic bacteria can work their way deep into the wound. When you take a shower, it’s much harder for that bacteria to be rinsed out compared to if it was just sitting on your skin’s surface.

When the bacteria is allowed to stay, unchecked, in your body, that’s when the trouble really starts. It starts to multiply and can lead to an infection.

What Causes Nose Piercing Infections?

Here are some of the factors that can influence who ends up being the unlucky one with the infection:

Using a Piercing Gun

One great way to cut back on your infection risk is to make sure your piercer doesn’t use a piercing gun. A hollow needle should be used instead because it is gentler on the tissue and it doesn’t cause as much damage.

A gun may seem simpler and more desirable than waiting for someone to pull a needle through your skin. After all, one quick pump and it’s done with a gun. However, using guns actually ups your risk of infection, so you’ll want to stick with a single-use needle.

Bacteria Through Swimming Pools, Bodies Of Water And Baths

If you got your nose piercing right before you’ve planned a big trip to the beach, you’re going to be disappointed if you planned to do some swimming. You shouldn’t get too far in the water with a fresh nose piercing because of the risk of infection.

Most bodies of water carry plenty of nasty bacteria, so you’ll have to keep your nose away from water sources like the ocean, swimming pools, and even your own bathtub while that nose piercing is healing.

Swimming pools can harbor a lot of germs and bacteria. Plus, they can be a double whammy for a new piercing because many of the disinfecting chemicals, like chlorine, that are used in pools can be irritating to your piercing.

Touching

People touch their faces throughout the day. It’s hard not to do it, and your nose is one of the most sensitive parts of your face. Whether your nose is itchy, runny or stuffy, most people are constantly touching it.

While it may seem like an innocent thing to do, it can actually be extremely problematic. The simple act of touching a recent piercing can cause an infection.

Think about how dirty our hands are during the day. We’re regularly touching surfaces – doors, desks, keyboards. Those surfaces often contain a lot of bacteria from people who touched them before us.

Wearing The Wrong Type Of Metal

If you choose jewelry that’s made out of a type of metal you are allergic or sensitive to, it slows how quickly your body will heal from the piercing. A slower healing time gives more opportunity for bacteria to set in.

Many people can’t tolerate nickel very well in their jewelry because it can lead to allergic reactions or allergies. If you want to ensure you’ll heal as quickly as possible, you might want to stay away from that metal.

A lot of people have had good luck with surgical-grade titanium jewelry. If you have money to spare, you could also try gold jewelry, although if it’s less than 24K gold, it typically contains some nickel.

Injuries

Sometimes, your nose piercing can be healing on schedule and therefore your chances of infection start decreasing. On the other hand, if you get an injury, even a mild one, to that area, your risk of infection increases as the wound opens up again.

You need to be careful with your new piercing and treat it gently to avoid any injuries. If you like to participate in sports, you need to use a lot of caution, especially if they are contact sports, like basketball.

Inserting nose jewelry incorrectly can also cause damage to the surrounding area, so ensure you’re extra careful with this step.

Inattention To Aftercare Instructions

After your piercing, your piercer will provide instructions to you before you dash out the door, still a bit dazed by what has just happened. How well you follow these instructions can be a determining factor as to whether an infection develops or not.

Aftercare instructions aren’t difficult to follow, so why do some people have trouble sticking to them?

For various reasons, including being too busy, forgetting about it or simply being too lazy to be bothered to take a few minutes a day to keep your new piercing clean.

The instructions don’t take long to follow and if you follow them strictly, you might end up infection-free.

It’s worth the extra effort, so if you find your commitment starting to waiver, look up pictures of infected nose piercings online. Those images might give you the extra motivation you need to keep your piercing clean.

If you want to ensure your piercing heals the best it possibly can, it’s imperative that you follow your piercer’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality aftercare solution to aid recovery.

The best piercing aftercare product I’ve ever had the pleasure of using up to this point 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.

Signs and Symptoms of an Infection

It would be nice if everyone was able to tell with a simple glance if their nose piercing was infected or not. Yet, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It can be tricky figuring out if a nose piercing is simply irritated or if a true infection has set in.

Here are some of the things you could expect to see in an infected nose piercing:

Redness

You can expect redness on your nose after you’ve had it pierced. That’s a common side effect of having a hole put through your nose. Although, if you notice the redness isn’t going away or if you see any red streaks that seem to branch out from the piercing site, you’ll want to up your aftercare commitment just in case it’s infected.

Swelling

If you see a strange bump or excessive swelling around your nose piercing, it could mean that an infection has settled in.

Pain

Infections tend to hurt, sometimes a lot. If your pain level seems to be going up instead of down, something’s probably not right. Try to remember if you’ve snagged your nose jewelry recently. That could account for the higher pain level. If nothing comes to mind, keep a close eye on it for any other sign that an infection might be developing.

Bumps

If you notice a bump on or around the nose piercing, it’s a possible sign of infection. If the bump seems a bit oozy, or if it is red, hot to the touch and/or painful, it’s even more likely to be an infection.

You should take any bumps you find seriously. Even if they aren’t an infection, they aren’t exactly the look you were going for. If you have any doubts about what it is, ask your piercer.

Discharge

You can have some discharge from your nose piercing in the first week or so. There’s no need to sound the alarm if you see that. However, if it seems to be increasing in volume and frequency, and the discharge has morphed from clear to yellow or another color, an infection is most likely. A funky smell from the discharge is another warning sign of infection.

Treatment

The first thing you should do is stop irritating the infection with anything you might be putting on your skin.

If you wear makeup, like foundation or concealer, you need to skip putting it on the piercing site. It can be tempting to load up the foundation to that area so you can hide what’s going on and still look normal to the outside world. Nevertheless, if you’re putting makeup on the piercing site, you’re really throwing fuel on the fire.

You should also make sure to skip any face lotions or creams on that site.

The next step is to begin cleaning the infected area. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with plenty of soap and water. You should be doing more than just a quick rub and rinse. Take your time and make sure you’re really scrubbing those hands up well.

When it comes time to dry them, use a clean paper towel since cloth towels can be a great hangout for bacteria.

Use a Q-tip dampened with warm water to gently begin cleaning any crust from the piercing site. Once that crust has been kicked to the curb, take a cotton ball dipped in a saline solution. The solution is easy to make – just take about one-fourth of a teaspoon of sea salt and add a few ounces of hot water.

Before you dunk your cotton ball in the hot water, give it a couple of minutes to fully dissolve the sea salt and let the water cool a little so you don’t scald yourself.

Once your cotton ball is wet, squeeze it out a little to remove the extra water. Then firmly place it against your piercing site. Keep holding it onto your nose until the cotton ball cools off. Then you’ll throw that cotton ball away and do the exact same thing with another one.

Keep up this process until you’ve had a wet cotton ball against your nose for a minimum of five minutes. The salt water is good for your infection and the warmth of the water will help drain out any pus or discharge that is building up.

After you have finished with the cotton balls, rinse the piercing site with some clean, warm water and pat it dry with a paper towel. You should continue to do this twice a day.

You can try this homecare as long as the infection doesn’t appear too severe. If you notice your infection getting worse, you should call your doctor for an appointment.

A fever indicates the infection is spreading throughout your body and that means it’s no longer just a nuisance; it could potentially become dangerous to your overall health.

Prevention

The most important preventative measure is to follow your piercers aftercare advice as closely as possible. If you do this, your risk of infection reduces dramatically.

Making an attempt to avoid injuries to your piercing site will help you dodge future infections. If your skin gets scratched or pulled, it can create a new wound that can allow bacteria to settle back in.

You should also avoid cheap, poorly-made jewelry. They are often made with less desirable metals like nickel that can cause allergic reactions. The more irritated and raw-feeling your skin is, the more you might want to scratch it. Scratching wounds can compromise your skin, allowing bacteria to get in.

Summary

Most people who get their noses pierced don’t end up with infections. If you follow your aftercare instructions and do your best to keep your hands clean, you should be fine and not need to worry too much.

If you do end up with an infected nose piercing, do your best to keep your chin up until it’s gone. It can be disheartening when it comes to your appearance and overall mood, but with a little work, your nose will be back to normal in no time.