Nose piercing infection : help needed
August 27, 2006 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I got my wife a nose piercing for her birthday. She'd really wanted it for a long time, and I became a one-cooler husband. Trouble now, is that she's developed an infection right next to the piercing – a fairly visible dark bulbous spot. She's tried a few things including Tea Tree oil, which does help reduce, but not eliminate the infection. This has now been going on for about a month and she's getting really upset that it won't go away (I can't blame her). I don't want her to regret getting the piercing because I think it's a really cool thing that she's done (a real stretch for her), and pretty sexy too. Any suggestions on getting rid of this infection?
posted by iTristan to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by brandz at 8:57 AM on August 27, 2006

If it's been a month, I'd say it's time to visit your dermatologist.
posted by The White Hat at 9:02 AM on August 27, 2006

Is it actually infected now or is it just a hard bump of scar tissue? If it's a hard bump that doesn't really hurt, it may be a keloid, which, quoting from the link, is an overgrowth of scar tissue at the site of a healed skin injury. They can be removed by simple surgery (by the doctor, of course).
posted by bread-eater at 9:02 AM on August 27, 2006

And yes, as White Hat says, see a doctor for sure.
posted by bread-eater at 9:03 AM on August 27, 2006

A doctor, I don't care that it's Sunday, she needs to call her doctor. Do you know how close your nose is to your brain? Blood carries infection around your body, and not to scaremonger, but if she's been picking at or pressing on this infection, it might be travelling. If she has been messing with it, she must tell the doctor that. By the way, I'm not a doctor.
posted by bilabial at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2006

You don't say what else you've been doing, but those bumps are fairly normal, check this nose piercing aftercare faq and don't screw around with teatree oil, get some antibiotics.
The most common problem is small lumps which form around the piercing, these are called granulomas and usually occur because the piercing has been knocked or the jewellery has been taken out and re-inserted damaging the wound.

The best course of action to heal Granulomas is to apply hot compresses to the wound once or twice a day. Put a clean paper towel under hot tap water, make sure that it's not hot enough to burn the skin, but hot enough to penetrate the wound. Leave on till the heat dissipates, do this twice a day. If that doesn't work the best course of action is to remove the jewellery for a short period of time to allow the wound to heal. when the lump goes down (usually 4-5 days) the jewellery may be reinserted, however, if the lump starts to come back it's best to leave it heal and have it re-pierced at a later date.
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 AM on August 27, 2006

Definitely take the piercing out until someone familiar with this sort of thing can look at it. It is pretty much impossible to diagnose this sort of thing sight unseen, and the potential for serious cosmetic damage, if nothing else, is high in that location. It might be infected, it might not, and it doesn't sound too serious right now, so don't panic, but don't just wait for it to get worse, either.
posted by TedW at 9:12 AM on August 27, 2006

First, a question: what metal is the jewelry made of? If it's anything but surgical steel, there may be an allergic reaction going on.

Now to clearing up infections from someone who has had to do it with a nose piercing:

Irrigate the area several times a day with a mild saline solution. Get a bottle or six of the stuff used for contact-lense wearers. Do not get extra strength, do not get anything with more stuff than simple, mild saline solution.

Also, do not use soap, do not use alcohol, do not...well, get the idea? Most of that stuff is too strong for a piercing, and will just make things worse.

About 4 times a day, your wife should put her face over a sink and squeeze saline solution over the piercing and surrounding areas for 10 seconds or more. Pat dry gently with a clean cloth.

If the area doesn't show improvement in a two days, it's time to go to the doctor.
posted by frykitty at 9:15 AM on August 27, 2006

Don't see a doctor, see the piercer. If you got pierced at a decent shop they would be more than happy to help you clear up the infection.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:17 AM on August 27, 2006

Response by poster: It's a pretty reputable piercer. She has been diligently following the sea-salt saline solution as prescribed by the piercer ever since day 1.

These are good suggestions, though. I think I'll get her to contact the piercer first to touch base - after all he did it - then depending on that follow up with anitbiotics, doctors etc.

Thanks all!
posted by iTristan at 9:34 AM on August 27, 2006

Make sure she washes her hands really well before (and after) she touches it. She should leave it alone as much as she can (i.e. only touch it when cleaning). When I've had infected piercings a fairly hot saline compress has helped clear the infections.
posted by robinpME at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2006

Saline solution just helps to prevent infection by rinsing out the wound and keeping it clean. If a wound gets infected anyway, you'll likely need a course of antibiotics. I agree with the 'seeing a doctor or dermatologist' advice.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:45 AM on August 27, 2006

Your piercer probably doesn't have a medical degree. So go see a doctor too, and don't assume the piercer knows everything. An infection on her nose could leave permanent visible scarring, so please see a medical expert.

Also, please let us know the conclusion?
posted by zaphod at 12:05 PM on August 27, 2006

has she been taking zinc at all? it won't get rid of the infection, but it does help speed up the healing process. i know most piercers recommend it.
posted by kendrak at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2006

I was a body piercer for several years, and what she is expeiencing souds like either a keloid, or more likely hypertrophic scar tissue. I highly doubt that it is an infection, and antibiotic ointments etc. will most likely just irritate the piercing. My recomendation is to continue the sea salt soaks and tea tree oil treatment. The bump may take a while (up to a month or two) to go away, but it should. I don't advise taking the jewelry out, as that will further irritate the piercing. If you still have questions, the best course of action is to pay your piercer a visit. Any piercer should have experience with this problem and should be happy to help you. Good luck!
posted by TheCoug at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2006

Dear God man, go to the doctor immediately.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:00 PM on August 27, 2006

If you think it's infected, get to a doctor, especially if it's been infected for a month. If it's a scar, my piercer recommends Mederma, but see your piercer for her suggestions as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:39 PM on August 27, 2006

"The dreaded bump" is what that bump is known as and happens a lot with new nose piercings. It happened on my first nose piercing. I kept up the warm saline compresses and it eventually disappeared. I eventually had to get my nose repierced (on the other side) because I took the first one out to change it, got distracted and it closed up too much. The second piercing did not develop the bump.

Google search, article, a Yahoo question (read the "best" answer).
posted by deborah at 5:43 PM on August 27, 2006

My wife's nose piercing gets those little bumps when she gets knocked in the schnozz, or she's not rigorous about cleaning it, but they clear up in two-three days, so I don' t think that is what is happening here. I vote for the keloid theory. See a dermatologist, but make sure they're not some old square who will be aghast at such a practice, and will insist that she remove the piercing immediately.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 PM on August 27, 2006

posted by oigocosas at 7:26 PM on August 27, 2006

Best answer: Oh come on, there is no need to go to the doctor; you're not going to get some blood poisoning that will shoot right to your brain and kill you. If anything, you'll get a doctor who will tell you to take it out because 'piercings are dangerous', when really there was no reason to take it out at all, because it is (almost 100%) NOT INFECTED.

This happens to tons of piercings every day. Any reputable piercer--or person with a piercing--will tell you to do some warm sea salt soaks for a few days. This will help drastically.

Since it's a new piercing, tea tree oil, witch hazel and the like are probably too harsh and could just irritate it more.

This has happened to me many times with nostril and cartiledge piercings. The reason? I keep messing with it or stuff keeps hitting it.

The piercing is irritated, and likely not infected. Just be gentle with it--don't touch it unless you're cleaning it, don't sleep on your face if you can avoid it, etc. The bump will clear up on its own in a month or so.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:47 PM on August 27, 2006

When I got my nose double-pierced many years ago, the top piercing would develop one of those pussy bulbs. After a couple of days, it would drain suddenly, leaving me with a small scab. That would heal, and then it would do it all over again in a week or two. It did not seem infected to me since the pus was clear, it didn't smell bad, it didn't hurt. It just seemed like an accumulation of gunk. I used warm sea salt compresses to help my piercings heal. It was not an attractive period of my life; I think it took 3-4 months for those little bulbs to stop happening completely. Since then I've had, oh, ten years or more of happy nose-pierced life.
posted by not that girl at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2006

Ignore* the advice to remove the jewelry. Any irritation or infection that might be there will get sealed inside and form an abcess once the piercing heals closed over it... which it will do quickly, especially since it's angry. It's very important that she treat the piercing with the jewelry still in it.

Soaking in sea salt (or applying a compress) is her best bet if it's not a raging infection already. A small amount (very small) of antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin run through the piercing will also help. Nostril piercings are often difficult to heal and are prone to keloiding.

* Was it done by a real piercer, using jewelry meant for nostrils (like a stainless steel or gold beadring or nostril screw)? If it was done with an ear piercing gun and is a stud with a backing on the inside, she's in trouble and needs to go to a real piercer to have that removed and replaced with proper jewelry.
posted by RoseovSharon at 12:15 AM on August 28, 2006

Sorry, just saw the part where you already explained it was a real piercer.

Yeah, go see them again, they can look at it and tell you exactly what's causing it and what to do about it. Until then tell her not to touch other than to clean, and to not take it out.
posted by RoseovSharon at 12:18 AM on August 28, 2006

The Danger Triangle of the Face. Yes, this is what doctors call it.

Also, denial. It ain't just a river in Egypt.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2006

Please, ignore the fear-mongering. I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing the mongers have no real-life, first-hand experience with piercings or their associated issues.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

What misanthropicsarah said. THIS IS A KNOWN ISSUE WITH NOSE PIERCINGS. Read the stuff I linked to in my answer.
posted by deborah at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all for your advice - even fear-mongering is good to read to have all the perspectives.

My wife was quite comfortable with the idea that minor infection was likely, but when it didn't go away with the regular daily sea salt compress (and then the tea tree oil) she became a little anxious.

In the end, she did begin the *warm* sea salt compress in addition to the regular one with advice from you all here. This made a huge difference and the infection and whole area is clearing up really quickly. In many ways, you wouldn't know she even had an infection unless you stared at her schnoz closely.

Thanks again all!
posted by iTristan at 12:05 PM on September 2, 2006

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