If you have an infected body piercing, you should immediately call your piercer and a doctor. Although self-care can resolve an infection at home, even mild infections can turn serious, and it is important to get the right treatment. If you care for an infected piercing entirely at home, you run the risk of missing a serious problem which could lead to septicemia or other unpleasant health conditions.
Preferably, of course, you should avoid allowing a piercing to get infected in the first place. If you get pierced when your immune system is healthy and follow aftercare instructions carefully, you can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Typical aftercare includes washing the site several times a day with an antibacterial or antimicrobial soap, using sea salt soaks to further reduce the risk of infection, and exposing the piercing to as much fresh air as possible. Some irritation is normal, as is a bit of discharge, especially in the first week.
If a piercing becomes hot, painful, and red, it can be a sign that it is becoming infected, especially if this is accompanied with a smelly, thick discharge. You can care for an infected piercing in the early stages by keeping it well-flushed with salt soaks, washing it carefully at least three times a day, and not handling it excessively. You may also want to call your piercer for recommendations, including a recommendation for a piercing-friendly doctor in case you require medical treatment.
Sometimes, a mild infection can resolve with self-care at home within a few days. If the infection appears to be growing worse or it doesn't improve within four days, you should seek medical attention, because you probably need antibiotics. Always seek medical attention if you cannot see the piercing because the area is so swollen, or if you notice red, yellow, or green rays in the skin around the piercing; this suggests tissue necrosis.
When you go to a doctor to request care for an infected piercing, you should be able to tell the doctor when you were pierced, and which measures you have been using to care for the piercing at home. If possible, ask to have the piercing left in, because if the piercing is removed, it can trap the infection under the skin as the hole closes, thereby creating an abscess. A doctor will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics and he or she may treat infected piercing by anesthetizing the site and cleaning it especially thoroughly to remove dead and dying tissue.
Never be afraid to go to the doctor for an infected piercing, even if it is a self-piercing. The earlier you are seen to care for an infected piercing, the better the prognosis will be, even if you have to endure some criticism from the doctor. If you are especially concerned about a negative interaction, ask regional piercers and friends for recommendations, or use an online review site to find a doctor with generally positive commentary from pierced individuals.