Body piercing, a form of body modification, is the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewellery may be worn. The word piercing can refer to the act or practice of body piercing, or to an opening in the body created by this act or practice.

How body piercing is carried out

The skin is disinfected with a 70% alcohol solution and allowed to dry before it is pierced, using sterile piercing equipment.
Ear piercing is normally done with a piercing gun, by either a jeweller or a professional body piercer. All other types of piercing must be carried out using a hollow needle, which is pushed through the skin and tissue of the body part. You'll normally feel a quick, sharp sting while the skin is being pierced.

How do I know if my piercing is infected?

If your piercing is infected, the skin around the pierced area may be red and swollen. It may hurt when you touch your piercing. You may have a yellowish, foul-smelling discharge coming from the piercing. If you have a fever or experience any of these symptoms, you should see your family doctor.

Who should perform my body piercing?

If you are going to have a piercing done, do some research to find a clean, safe piercing shop. Choose a professional with a good reputation to perform the piercing. The person doing the piercing should:

  • Wash his or her hands with a germicidal soap before doing the piercing
  • Wear disposable gloves
  • Use disposable or sterilized tools
  • Use a new needle to do the piercing

Do not pierce yourself or let anyone pierce you who is not a professional. This will help prevent infection. Select the body site and jewelry carefully. Avoid jewelry made or nickel or brass, which can cause allergic reactions. Look for jewelry made of titanium, 14-carat gold or surgical-grade steel.

Healing times

Healing times for the most common body piercings are as follows:

  • earlobe - six weeks
  • top of the ear - at least three to four months
  • belly button - up to a year
  • tongue - one to two months
  • nose - two to three months

Possible risks

Bacterial infection is the main risk associated with body piercing. Sometimes an abscess (build-up of pus) forms around the piercing site, which can develop into blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome if left untreated. This can be very serious.
Tongue piercings carry a higher risk of bacterial infection because of the high number of bacteria already present inside the mouth.