Accidents happen, and so do emergencies. What do we do when something is wrong with our piercing, at 3am, and there’s no piercers we can contact for help? How do we know what’s the best thing we can do for our piercing, and how to keep things safe? This is the Emergency Series, where I’m hoping to cover common accidents and piercing emergencies with some basic advice intended to help you make it till you can get in touch with your piercer.
Todays topic- Overswelling
Generally as piercers we are playing a bit of a guessing game when we choose jewelry sizing for a new piercing. We have some tried and true sizes that we know work with certain anatomy. But we have to find a careful balance- too long and it can cause irritation and become caught and snagged. Too short and there’s no room for swelling. We do our best to predict how much swelling each client may have and size jewelry accordingly. We make these educated guesses based off years of experience, understanding of anatomy, and understanding of our clients bodies. Educated as these guesses may be, they are still guesses. And sometimes, life decides to change things up a bit. We get home and our dog headbutts our brand new piercing right away. Our partner snags it, we catch it on our hair. Sometimes our bodies just don’t behave and we have more swelling than we anticipated. Whatever the case may be, you’ve got a piercing that’s now very over swollen! What are we to do?
In these situations it’s really easy to panic and become stressed, overwhelmed, and scared. Those are normal responses, but they also make it a lot harder for us to think rationally and make good choices. So please, take a few deep breaths. Sip some water. And try to calm down. It will be ok. This sort of thing happens to people all the time, and it is not the end of the world. You, and your piercing, will come out of this just fine! Swelling is normal and happens- over swelling happens more often than you might realize. It’s usually fairly easy to get swelling under control on your own, or see your piercer for something a little longer to allow for swelling.
Bring the Swelling Down
Our first step is going to be doing what we can in the immediate present to reduce the swelling. The first and best thing we can do is take some anti inflammatories. Advil is the most common to have around your house. Tylenol, is in fact, not an anti inflammatory, but a pain reliever. Check labels and instructions on these medications to ensure you are taking the right medication, and also the right dosage. Anti inflammatory medication is going to be one of the most effective ways we can bring down swelling. Please note that if a piercing is very fresh this may increase the risk of bleeding.
The next best step is a cool compress. Not ice. Ice can be way too cold on a fresh or irritated piercing and cause its own issues. Cold water or cold saline is going to be far safer for your piercing. I’d suggest taking some gauze (or in a really tight pinch a clean paper towel) and soaking it either with cold saline that’s been in your fridge or cold filtered water from your fridge. Then hold this cool wet gauze up to the area. This cold will help bring down swelling without being so cold to cause it’s own damage. Between regular compresses and the anti inflammatories you should see that swelling come down some.
Contact Your Piercer
We’ve calmed down, we are doing what we can to get the swelling down. Next step is to contact your piercer. With overselling sometimes anti inflammatories and cold compresses are enough, but often we end up needing to install longer jewelry to accommodate for the swelling and allow the area to recover. Getting in touch with your piercer asap can make sure they know what’s going on and can get you in for a jewelry change sooner rather then later. I would contact your piercer, explain the situation and what happened. Send them some photos of how things are looking, and let them know what you are already trying (anti inflammatories and cold compresses). Giving them all of this information right away allows them to be able to assess the situation and the piercing right off the bat and help you as effectively as possible. It’s very likely you may end up needing to get some longer jewelry, so figuring out what your piercing needs sooner rather than later is essential.
Sometimes Removal is the Best Choice
If you are unable to get to a piercer in a reasonable timeframe and cold compresses and anti inflammatories aren’t bringing down your swelling, sometimes removing the jewelry is the best choice we can make. When we have excess swelling and the jewelry is too tight it can sink into the area, or even cause damage like pulling through the skin. These issues can become severe quickly and turn into something that’s going to need medical attention. If you can get to your piercer in a timely manner (usually 24-48 hours) some longer jewelry can fix things. But occasionally we are in situations where we simply can’t get to our piercer or any piercer for help. In that case, if it’s been over 24 hours with no improvement on swelling, you may need to make the call to remove jewelry for the time being to prevent further issues. Discuss with your piercer if you can get in touch with them and don’t be afraid to make this call if it’s the safest for you and your body.
I hope if you’ve found yourself in the not so great situation of things over swelling, this blog can help you keep calm and find some temporary relief before you get to a piercer and save your piercing! Please after something like this occurs, even if you can get the swelling to go down, follow up with your piercer to ensure your piercing is still ok and healthy. The advice given in this blog does not replace one on one professional advice from your body piercer.