Sometimes inspiration just strikes, and you feel the urge to get an ear piercing during Spring/Summer break when everyone is frequenting the beach. Or maybe it’s the off-season and you still need to train. Whatever the case, fresh ear piercings are essentially open wounds, and exposing them to water increases the risk of an infection. What are you to do then?
Experts recommend waiting until your ears have fully healed before you go swimming, which could take six to eight long weeks. That said, the earlobes heal from the outside first before the inside, and once the outside is healed, it can reduce the chances of bacteria entering the wound. This takes around one to two weeks. Alternatively, you could just wear a waterproof ear cover over your ear piercings, and you should also learn how to clean your ear piercing to be safe.
Whether you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool, hot tub, or outdoors at a lake or beach, any body of water can expose your wound to contaminants that can lead to a nasty infection (and immediate pain). Do not let your guard down and take steps to prevent this so that you can safely go swimming after getting an ear piercing.
Can I expose my ears to water after getting a piercing?
Yes, you can expose your ears to fresh water (i.e. from a showerhead or sink). The water quality is very high in North America, so it should be safe to wash your wounds with tap water; in fact, it is highly encouraged. The issue is exposing it to other sources of water that may be contaminated.
Other bodies of water, such as swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans are not as clean as tap water. Even swimming pools sanitized by chlorine may not be 100% safe because it can take up to a few minutes (or even days) for some germs and bacteria to get eliminated, and this is assuming there is sufficient chlorine in the pool and the water chemistry is balanced.
Let’s not even get started on how much contaminants lakes and oceans contain. If you have any open wounds at all, let alone an ear piercing, it would be risky of you to go swimming outdoors. Thus, it is not recommended to swim in these bodies of water until the piercing sites have healed.
That said, you may still be able to go swimming if you wear an ear cover that prevents the dirty water from reaching your ear piercings. They are mostly effective but there is a possibility that the ear cover can get dislodged or loosened while you’re swimming. Thus, going swimming before your ear piercings have healed, even with ear covers, is something you do at your own risk.
Can I go swimming immediately after getting a new piercing?
No. Experts recommend you wait at least a full 24 hours, preferably 48-72 hours after a piercing before you go swimming even with ear covers. This is because the piercing site(s) will be extremely sensitive in the first few days after getting pierced. It is also when the risk of infection is at its highest. At least wait a few days after a piercing to give your body some time to recover.
Can I take my earrings out to go swimming?
Generally no. You should keep your earrings in your earlobes as often as possible until the piercing sites have recovered. As mentioned, this process can take six to eight weeks.
For reference purposes, a nose piercing can take up to six months to heal, and a belly button piercing 6-12 months. Six to eight weeks seems like a blessing compared to that.
Taking your earrings out before your ears have fully healed around the earring may allow the hole to close up, defeating the purpose of getting your ears pierced in the first place.
You can briefly remove your earrings for a short time for safety reasons, such as if you will be playing a contact sport and don’t want your earrings to get ripped out. The risk is that you may forget to put the earrings on afterwards.
What ear covers can protect my ears when I go swimming?
There are three options you can choose from:
- Waterproof bandage
- Swimming cap
- Swimming ear band
The great thing about these options is that they are cheap, readily available, and can be combined with one another. In fact, I highly encourage combining at least two of them for maximum ear piercing protection while swimming.
For instance, you can apply the waterproof bandage over your piercing sites, and then wear a swimming cap or swimming ear band over your ears.
This literally covers up the weakness of a waterproof bandage which can easily get dislodged in the middle of a physical activity such as swimming.
Similarly, swimming caps and ear bands prevent most, but not all the water from reaching your ears. By adding an extra layer of protection via a waterproof bandage, you can prevent the water from reaching your open wound.
Before you put on an ear cover and after, you should wash and then dry your ear piercing sites to reduce the chances of infection. I recommend you read our article on this topic for more details.
How to clean your ears for swimming
Piercing aftercare isn’t as complicated as you think. The hardest part is to be patient and consistent with your aftercare, since you’ll need to keep it up for six to eight weeks or until the piercing sites have healed.
First, rinse your ears with fresh water. Then apply a mild soap, such as hand soap, directly on the piercing site with earrings still on. Leave the soap for at least 30 seconds before rinsing it off. Dry your ears with a towel.
Be careful of stronger cleaning agents with harsher chemicals because they may hurt your ears and have a chemical reaction with the earrings, ruining them.
You can also specifically purchase a spray designed for cleaning piercings.
If your ears start to turn red, swell, and hurt, then you may have an ear infection. Seek medical attention immediately.