January 2, 2022

Potential Side Effects of Getting a Piercing


Body piercings and modifications are more popular than ever and it is very common to see older adults, younger adults and teenagers with piercings other than a traditional ear piercing. It is important to know that some serious risks come with piercings and there are important steps to follow in your aftercare to avoid infections and other side effects. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most common complications and what you can do to avoid them. 


So what are these complications? Remember, a piercing is essentially a wound in your body and like any wound, requires care to help it heal properly. Having your piercing done by one of the experienced professionals at Sage Piercing will go a long way in ensuring that your piercing will heal properly as will following the aftercare provided by your piercer. 

Possible Piercing Side Effects

Because a piercing is an open wound, it is at risk of the same complications of any wound to your body. The type of side effects will also change with the location of your piercing. Here are some complications to look out for. 


  • Skin Infections – your piercing could become infected and may be red, swollen, painful and have pus or other fluid discharge
  • Allergic Reactions – many people are allergic to metals like nickel that are sometimes in piercing jewelry
  • Tearing or Trauma – depending on the location of your piercing it could get caught or torn out accidentally
  • Scarring – Piercing can lead to scarring on some people’s bodies or keloids, which are raised areas of scar tissue
  • Bloodborne Diseases – if the equipment used for the piercing is not sterilized it could put you at risk of bloodborne diseases such as Hepatitis B and C or HIV
  • Dental Trauma – some mouth or tongue piercings can damage teeth and gums or interfere with chewing and swallowing.
  • Piercing Rejection –  some locations on the body, piercing rejection is more likely as the body considers the piercing an intruder and tries to push it out. 


When To See Your Doctor

Although some redness, swelling and slight pain around the piercing is normal if you have severe symptoms it could be a sign of an infection.  You should be seen by a doctor right away if you have severe pain or swelling, a very thick yellow or gray discharge or if it has a smell, you have a fever, chills, nausea or vomiting or dizziness. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help treat the infection. 


If your reaction is caused by an allergy to the metal in your piercing, changing the piercing to surgical grade titanium, or gold may help. An allergic reaction to the metal could cause itching, tenderness, redness or a rash around the piercing. Many cheaper metals contain nickel or nickel alloys, which are a common allergen for many people. At Sage Tattoo and Art Gallery we only use titanium piercings or gold to avoid allergic reactions. 


Side Effects of Piercing on Different Parts of the Body

Some areas are more prone to piercing side effects than others. 


  • Navel Piercing – Body button piercings like a navel ring is at a greater risk for rejection or tearing because the location is so close to the surface of the skin and can often get caught in your pants if you use low rise jeans, shorts etc. A heavy or long hanging body jewelry can also increase tears if you are not conscious of your piercing. ​​Wearing a curved barbell instead of a ring until the navel piercing has healed can help by reducing irritation and preventing scarring. 


  • Tongue or Mouth Piercings – Tongue or mouth and lip piercings are more at risk for dental trauma where the piercing can interfere with the teeth or even cause damage to the teeth and gums. Some mouth piercings can get in the way of a person eating or even cause difficulty breathing due to swelling if there happens to be an allergic reaction. 

One way to avoid this is to rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine, and of course to try and avoid biting the ball of your tongue piercing jewelry and switching to plastic rather than metal or stainless steel.  Being aware of any allergies before choosing your types of jewelry will help avoid allergic reactions. 


  • Nose Piercing – nose piercings are usually done in the fleshy part of the nostril. Piercing the nasal cartilage can put you at risk of bleeding and increased risk of infection depending on your skin’s sensitivity. Once your nose studs have healed you can slowly begin to play around with different styles of your nostril piercing and trying on different nose rings and styles.  


  • Cartilage Piercings are more at risk for bumps or growths that can form when you get the piercing or after it has healed. These bumps can be pustules which are like a pimple filled with fluid, a granuloma – which is a lesion that can grow after the initial piercing has started to heal at about 6 months, or a keloid which is a thick scar tissue at the piercing. Ensuring you go to a professional piercer and follow sterilization procedures during your healing process will help avoid these issues. 

What You Can Do To Avoid Piercing Side Effects

It is important to keep a new piercing clean. You should always follow the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer and be sure to clean your piercing once a day. Always wash your hands before and after you clean your piercing. Cleanse your piercing with a gentle cleanser recommended by your piercer or a gentle fragrance free soap. Dry with a clean paper towel to avoid harmful bacteria that could be on a cloth towel. 


If your piercing is slightly irritated you can also rinse it with a gentle saline solution made from sea salt and warm water. The saline will help rinse away dead cells and harmful bacteria. 


Why It Is Important to Be Pierced By A Professional

The best way to avoid piercing side effects is to have your piercing done by an experienced professional like the ones at Sage Tattoo and Gallery. Our technicians have years of experience with many different types of piercings and body modifications and can advise you on proper aftercare to help avoid side effects and infection.

If you are interested in a new piercing or have any questions about the potential side effects of piercings and how to avoid them, book a session with the experienced professional piercers at Sage Tattoo and Gallery in Ottawa. Call and book an appointment today!