Quick Reference

Abscesses and Boils

Bump Description | Bump Creation | Bump Prevention | Bump Treatment | Further Reading

This page is about abscesses and boils, bumps which can appear on body piercings suffering from a very minor skin infection. These can appear quite frequently and are often mistaken for hypertrophic scarring.

Abscesses and Boils

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  • The bumps usually appear quite soon after being pierced or after the piercing is damaged.
  • They usually appear and grow quite quickly, over a few days and can sometimes leak fluid.
  • They tend to be a red-pink colour and can have a white or yellow head if they are a boil or sometimes have a dark or scabby looking head if they are a abscess.
  • Often they can start out hard like a pimple but then become soft and full of fluid like a water-balloon


  • Staphylococcus aureus is usually the form of bacteria that forms these infections. It is a very common type of bacteria.
  • This bacteria is often; in the bathroom, on towels, bedding, on other people or pets, and in the kitchen.
  • Once the Staphylococcus gets into the piercing wound it begins to kill off the local cells which causes your body to produce an inflammatory response, raise temperature and produce pus.
  • The bump itself is formed by the healthy tissue near the infection as a defensive measure to keep the infectious materials (i.e. pus) from going anywhere else.

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The best way to avoid infection is to keep everything that may come into contact with your piercing as clean as possible this includes things like:

  • Getting a piercer with a good reputation not just someone random.
  • Consider avoiding being pierced with a gun as they cannot be sterilised and the earrings can cause dead skin, dirt and bacteria to collect.
  • Washing all your bedding, towels and any clothes that are close to your piercing.
  • Regularly wiping down objects that come near to the piercing with an antibacterial cleaner and cleaning cups or containers used to clean the piercing with antibacterial soap.
  • Keeping the piercing as dry as possible in-between cleanings. Substitute your shower for a soak.
  • Avoiding bodies of water like the sea, bathtubs, pools, jacuzzis, lakes and rivers for at least the first two weeks. If need to use a bath clean it with an antibacterial cleaner before use.
  • Making an effort to boil your piercing cleaning water in a microwave.
  • Not touching your piercing unless you have cleaned your hands first.
  • Not letting other people touch your piercing, is also important. If someone else needs to touch your piercing they should clean their hands and wear gloves.
  • Trying not to let animals sleep in your bed or on towels / clothes which will be close to the piercing.
  • Changing your toothbrush (or toothbrush head) to a new one if you have a mouth piercing.

All of this prevention is especially important in cartilage piercings like the upper or inner ear as they do not have a blood flow of their own so immune cells take longer to get to the infection.

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Home Treatment   |   Professional Treatment

Infections should always be treated with care and if you are worried you should always visit a doctor rather than relying on a body piercer. Our advice should not be considered a substitute for medical advice in any form.

Home Treatment

There are several things you can do to help to treat an abscess or boil at home.

  • Hot saline soaks (see here for a guide) help to drain the piercing of anything nasty stuck underneath it, reduces swelling and (most importantly) encourages more healing cells into the area.
  • After soaking the piercing, rinse and dry it thoroughly on something disposable and then apply an antiseptic spray, liquid, oil or gel. Avoid creams. Do this process twice a day.
  • If your piercing is very sore you can also add in a chamomile tea bag to your soak.
  • It may also be worth taking an anti-inflammatory pain killer (as long as you are able to).

If after a few days the piercing bump seems no better or if it gets worse while you are treating it then you should consult a medical professional as soon as possible and get professional treatment.

Professional treatment

Usually piercing infections are very minor and doctors tend to just prescribe an antibiotic cream such as Fucidin cream or antibiotic pills which will help your body to fight the infection.

  • The best thing you can do when you are prescribed antibiotics of any kind is to assist them by cleaning your piercing. Add in some antibacterial / antiseptic liquid or soap into your salt water soaks and then rinse and dry thoroughly. If you are prescribed antibotic cream, use after drying.
  • Do not worry about getting antibiotic cream inside your piercing. Use it everywhere, including on the jewellery itself.
  • If you have been given a cream don’t keep using it when the bump has gone, or on other wounds.
  • If your abscess is particularly large or bad then it may need to be lanced before antibiotic treatment. This means the bump will be popped and drained away and the wound will be cleaned by a doctor. Do not do this at home, you could make the infection worse.
  • In particularly severe cases you may be asked to remove the piercing all together because the jewellery is not part of your body and there is no blood supply to bring the antibiotics into the jewellery pores to kill off the infection lurking there.
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Further Reading

To learn more about these bumps try reading the full guide to abscesses and boils here. Alternatively you may want to know more about the piercing infections which can be found here. We also have a guide detailing the other benefits of saline soaks that may interest you!

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