Can You Swim in the Ocean After an Ear Piercing?

Piercings can make for a bold fashion statement. After all, the first thing most people think of when discussing piercings is usually its association with punk or alternative subcultures.

However, ear piercings are a bit more innocuous, and more people are willing to wear them. 

If you just got a new ear piercing and are thinking about going swimming soon, you might be wondering if you can swim in the ocean after getting an ear piercing. 

Let’s go straight into our answer. 

Should You Swim in the Ocean After Getting an Ear Piercing?

As it turns out, it’s not uncommon for people to get a piercing during a vacation – especially a beach vacation. 

It’s easy to see why with piercing shops and tattoo parlors dotting the landscapes of many vacation spots. 

For many people, getting an ear piercing is a rite of passage. For others, it’s just another opportunity to express themselves with their bodies. 

Still, getting a sharp metal object pierced through a layer of your skin is an easy way to introduce bacteria into your body. 

For this reason, it’s not recommended to swim in the ocean right after getting an ear-piercing. You can learn more about the reasons why below.

You Should Wait Before You Swim Anywhere After a Piercing

Several health professionals say swimming directly after getting your ears pierced is not recommended.

First of all, the U.K.’s NHS suggests waiting at least 24 hours after an ear piercing before you swim. 

This is to reduce the possibility of an infection. After all, oceans can be hives of bacteria depending on your vacation location. 

In the U.S., the Mayo Clinic says waiting until a piercing is healed is a better course of action. Better safe than sorry, according to them. 

Riley Children’s Health, a well-known children’s hospital in America, says swimming in any setting – especially in the ocean – only increases the possibility of an infection. 

According to the EPA, certain bacteria live in oceans that cause illnesses, such as viruses. Protozoa or parasites are also present. 

Those can go into your bloodstream – especially at the point of the new piercing. Scientific American reports an increase in a specific form of bacteria called Vibrio in oceans worldwide. 

Vibrio is a bacteria that can cause cholera, a particularly devastating diarrheal disease. 

Then there are also the less-likely cases that can be just as devastating. According to the American Society of Microbiology, some bodies of water can also contain flesh-eating bacteria.

These include Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Clostridium, Escherichia, Staphylococcus, and Aeromonas. 

These bacteria can wreak havoc on an infected part of your body. Amputations and tissue removal are likely in the worst cases.

Making sure you take the proper precautions after an ear piercing is not a matter to take lightly. 

Taking the advice of health experts on top of your comfort level seems to be a winning option. However, waiting for the healing process to complete seems to be the best course of action. 

So, how do we treat the ear-piercing site until we can hop back in the ocean or resume swimming in a pool? 

Cleaning and Proper Care of an Ear Piercing

After a piece of metal stabs a layer of your skin, the chance for infection remains high. Ear piercing shops abide by their own rules and regulations. 

Those regulations include keeping the piercing stations clean and sanitized, wiping down equipment, and cleaning the ear-piercing site with alcohol before the procedure. 

Post-procedure, however, the customer must maintain a level of care to prevent infection. 

Most of the time, your ear piercing shop will give you a bottle of saline solution and cleaning instructions.

The American Association of Dermatologists says there are several steps you should take for proper care of your ear piercing.

  1. Wash your hands often if you touch the piercing site
  2. Keep the starter ear studs inside your earlobes for six weeks
  3. Wash your earlobes often – especially during showers or baths
  4. Move the starter ear studs around your ears so the holes do not have the opportunity to close
  5. Clean the ear piercings with alcohol or saline solution

More advice exists when it comes to proper piercing care. 

The Association of Professional Piercers suggests keeping the piercing site dry using a paper towel or bathroom tissue. 

Towels, according to APP, can house bacteria very easily or snag on your starter ear studs. You do not want your ear-piercing site to rip or tear. 

APP also has recommendations for sleeping when you have an ear piercing. They say you can create a clean surface for your pillow by placing a T-shirt over it and flipping it nightly. 

However, the tried-and-true method of using a saline solution is the best course for most people with ear piercings. 

With the saline solution, the point is to get the inside of the piercing cleaned several times each day. After that, keep the piercing site dry and free of any debris. 

In the meantime, let’s discuss what can happen if you don’t properly take care of an ear piercing.

What Happens If I Don’t Take Care of My Ear Piercing?

Maintaining a clean and sanitary ear piercing is a great way to ensure you don’t get an infection. 

A piercing infection can be a painful and dangerous issue that needs to be treated by a professional. 

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital says your earlobe may be infected if it is red, painful, or warm. 

The earlobe may also be infected if a thick white or yellow fluid is oozing from it, called pus. All of these signs are hallmarks of infection that need immediate treatment. 

Contact a general practitioner, family doctor, or dermatologist at this point. The doctor will examine the ears, test for infection, and establish a treatment plan. 

The Cleveland Clinic says an infection is a common issue due to the millions of people getting their ears pierced every year. 

Still, doctors are likely to recommend the following for the treatment of an ear-piercing infection:

  • A warm compress on the site of infection
  • Saline rinse on the infection
  • An antibiotic such as ointment or oral medication for more severe infection

On top of this level of care, a continuous regiment of cleaning and treating the site is highly recommended, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

In fact, the hospital further recommends cleaning the infection site at least three times a day until the infection clears.

Once the infection and the ear-piercing site heal, you can resume any activities like swimming. It’s almost a reward at that point!

Final Thoughts

Getting an ear piercing can be a fun experience and a great way to express your sense of self or personality. 

However, making sure that you take care of the ear-piercing site is important. That level of proper care includes education. 

The most important things to know about getting an ear piercing are that you keep it clean, stay out of swimming situations for at least 4 to 6 weeks, and wait for the piercing to heal. 

If you’re itching to get back to swimming in the ocean after getting an ear piercing, know that following recommendation is paramount over anything else. 

Give your piercing time to heal, and enjoy your swim in a couple of weeks. 

Other articles you may also like: