Swimming with Healing Body Piercings
Updated: Apr 4
Summer is upon us! Despite corona virus, around the world beaches, pools, and swimming holes are all opening back up. And who doesn’t love taking a dip during the summer months. But if you have a healing piercing, it might not be the safest idea to do so. I know, this gets a lot of eye-rolling and “but I’ll be careful! My friend did it and it’s fine.” But, hear me out. Swimming with a piercing his definitely risky, and more so now with concerns about pathogens like corona virus. Lets look at why it is not worth the risk.
Bacteria Breeds Everywhere, but Loves Water
Bacteria and water are BFFS. Oceans, lakes, rivers, they are all chocked full of every bacteria and microorganisms you can imagine under the sun. Dirt, debris, chemicals, all of that is floating around in the soup of the world. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go swimming, but if you have an open wound, swimming and exposing it to that bacteria isn’t a great idea. Piercings go double for that, because they are a long healing wound. It’s not like a scrape on your arm that’s scabbed over and on the way to healing in a few days. Piercings can take months and months to fully heal, and carry with them a higher risk during that entire time. That means that piercing you got in march will still be healing through the summer months.
“Recent cases of flesh-eating bacterial infections have made headlines, yet you’re far more likely to wind up with nausea, diarrhea, or a respiratory infection after a trip to the beach. Researchers estimate bacteria in the waterways cause more than 90 million cases of stomach, respiratory, ear, eye, and skin-related illnesses every year in the U.S., while fewer than 1,500 cases of necrotizing fasciitis (aka flesh-eating bacteria) happen here annually, from any cause. "Fecal matter, like from sewage discharge, is responsible for a lot of the pollution,” says Mark Mattson, president of Swim Drink Fish, an organization that promotes safe water. “After it rains, urban beaches are often contaminated from the runoff. And in rural areas, it’s agricultural pollution.” -Debbie Koenig
No, Pools aren’t safe either
Many people get the idea well, the ocean or lake is pretty gross, but pools have chlorine to kill all of that, so I can swim with my piercing as long as its in the pool! Nope. Chlorine itself is very harsh, and if you recall your last pool trip it clings to everything once you are in the water, including your jewelry. Chemicals aren’t good for healing piercing, and chlorine is downright awful for them. It’s very drying which causes irritation bumps, and it gets all over your jewelry and is often hard to throughly clean off, meaning you leave little bits of it in contact with your piercing for who knows how long after you swim. Yes, it’s killing off a lot of harmful bacteria from the water, but a chemical that strong isn’t doing your piercing any favors. Many folks try to argue that salt water pools are safer, but the salt can have the same drying effects, and also harbor similar bacteria.
“To protect yourself and others, if you have a larger cut, you should let it scab over before swimming,” says John Anderson, an internal medicine specialist with Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital. “If there’s any pus, you shouldn’t be getting the wound near other people.”
Any wound with discharge you are suggested not to go swimming with, and that means the natural discharge of a piercing as well. It’s not worth the risk to your piercing, and your health, to go swimming regardless.
You are still going to swim, aren’t you?
Listen. I pierced for years in florida. I get it. Nothing will stop a determined Floridian from getting in the ocean, come hell or high water. Y’all were gonna swim and you did not care. Sometimes you are gonna do what you want to do and good advice be damned. So, if you are, here’s some things you can do.
-Cover the piercing if possible. For things like navels, nipples, and microdermals, you can use a Tegaderm bandage. It’s a waterproof clean bandage. Clean the skin around the piercing (NOT the piercing itself) with alcohol first, as it will help the bandage form a better seal. Note that these bandages really only work on flat areas- trying to wrap one around your ear or nose isn’t going to cut it.
-If you can’t cover it, don’t get it wet. For ear and facial piercings, just don’t dunk your head under water, and ask your friends and family to be mindful about splashing you.
-Shower throughly after swimming, and clean your piercing really well. I'd also suggest doing a warm compress after swimming as well to soothe the piercing.
-Keep an eye out. If things are red, inflamed, warm to the touch, or if you notice more secretion and crust or different colors. Thats a bad sign. Get in touch with your piercer asap for a checkup to see how things are doing.
-Be ok hearing I told you so. Listen, does every client who swims have a bad time? No. But not everyone who texts and drives crashes, however that doesn’t make it safe. If you come to your piercer with a bad irritation from swimming, we will likely remind you we warned you not to swim, and it was a bad idea, and not to do it again please!
It’s better to be safe than sorry, and that means not swimming with healing piercings. For many people, the end of summer and early fall is the perfect time to get navel and nipple piercings, so they are healed up in time for next summer! During the summer ear and facial piercings can avoid water by just not submerging your head. I know for clients without seasons who have beautiful swimming water year round its hard to take 6-9 months off the pool. But it’s the safest option, and worth the patience! Whether you swim or not, be safe, take good care of your piercings, and reach out to your piercer at the first sign of any irritation or trouble!