If you decide to get your ears or another part of your body pierced, make sure you go to a licensed body piercing shop or piercer.
Piercing is a fairly safe procedure, as long as it's carried out by a licensed practitioner and you take care to avoid infection.
To reduce the risk of your piercing becoming infected, good hygiene is important.
Always wash your hands and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel or kitchen roll before touching the area around the piercing.
Avoid fiddling with the area and don't turn the piercing. If a crust develops over the piercing, don't remove it – it's the body's way of protecting the piercing.
The piercing may bleed when you first have it done, and it may bleed for short periods over the next few days. It may also be tender, itchy and bruised for a few weeks.
Keep the piercing clean by gently cleaning the area around it with a saline (salt water) solution twice a day, preferably after washing or bathing.
To do this, submerge the area in a bowl of saline solution (1/4 teaspoon of sea salt per egg cup of warm water) for a few minutes at a time. Alternatively, you can wet a clean cloth or gauze in the solution and apply it as a warm compress.
Washing the piercing can help soften any discharge and allow you to clean the entry and exit points with a cotton bud or clean gauze. Once the discharge is removed or softened, the jewellery can be gently moved to work a little warm water through the piercing.
When you've finished, carefully dry the area with a fresh piece of kitchen roll. Never use a shared towel.
These leaflets published by Public Health England (PHE) have more specific aftercare advice for different types of piercing:
Signs of an infected piercing include:
Get medical advice immediately if you think your piercing may be infected. A delay in treatment can result in a serious infection.
Leave your jewellery in (unless your doctor tells you to take it out).
An infected piercing can usually be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic cream can be used to treat minor infections. Tablets may be needed for more serious infections.
Bacterial infection is the main risk associated with piercings.
An abscess (build-up of pus) may form around the piercing site which, if left untreated, may need to be surgically drained and can leave a scar.
Other risks from piercings include:
Any piercing that interferes with bodily functions carries a higher risk of causing problems. For example:
Doing your own piercing is dangerous and should be avoided. Without the right equipment, there's a greater risk of infection and scarring.
When choosing a piercer, make sure they've got a piercing licence. All professional piercers must obtain a licence from their local council in order to carry out piercings.
The licence should be clearly and prominently displayed on their premises and means they meet the required safety and hygiene standards.