Cannabis Science

Infected Tongue Piercing Symptoms and Treatment

man with tongue piercing

You’ve finally got the tongue piercing you’ve been thinking about getting for ages. You’re counting down the days before you can swap out the jewelry. As you’re taking care of it, you notice that something is off. Could your tongue piercing actually be infected? Well to be sure, you’ll need to see a doctor but here are some of the infected tongue piercing symptoms and treatment you’ll need to take note of. 

Photo: Flickr

What Does an Infected Tongue Piercing Look Like?

infected tongue piercing
Picture of an infected tongue piercing Source: Tattoo Authority 

According to Healthline, while your tongue piercing is healing, you may notice some changes. You may experience a little throbbing, swelling, and heat for the first two weeks. Even clear or white discharge is totally normal. 

Colgate mentioned that an infected piercing will have prolonged healing symptoms as well as other symptoms, such as: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shaking or red streaks around the piercing wound
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Unusual discharge 

Healthline says the early signs of infection are: 

  • uncomfortable swelling
  • persistent warmth
  • severe pain
  • excessive bleeding
  • pus or yellow discharge
  • bump at the front or back of the piercing

So an infected tongue piercing typically looks red, swollen, and may have discharge coming out of it. 

Why Do Tongue Piercings Get Infected?

Even with proper care, there is still a chance you could have an infected piercing. Infected piercings are usually caused by bacteria getting into your piercing. 

Healthline says bacteria can get introduced to your piercing by:

  • Eating and drinking
  • French kissing
  • Performing oral sex
  • Engaging in other sexual activities 

According to a study, factors that increase inflammation could also increase the chance of infection. For example, the study mentioned metal allergic reactions and improper sizing and positioning of the barbell as factors that can increase the incidence of infection. 

How to Treat an Infected Tongue Piercing 

According to Healthline, mild infections can be treated at home. Make sure you: 

Wash the Piercing with a Saline Solution

Whether or not your piercing is infected this is necessary aftercare. Healthline suggests doing this two to three times daily.

The good news is, saline solution is super simple to make. All you have to do is add salt to warm water. Healthline suggests one teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water. However, if you don’t want to make your own solution you can cop it at a pharmacy or ask your piercer. 

With a clean cloth or paper towel and simply wipe away all the crust from around the piercing. If you don’t see any crust just wipe around the piercing anyway. 

Use Some Ice

If your piercing is swollen or painful, you can alleviate those issues with ice cubes. You can use other compresses like frozen vegetables as well. 

You may also feel better using a warm compress but if the area is already warm you may want to opt for ice. 

Avoid Spicy Food 

The last thing you want with a mild infection is even more irritation. Healthline suggests avoiding foods with spice, alcohol, and crunchy foods. 

Healthline also says to avoid or reduce your coffee intake. Their article said, “Coffee may also have blood-thinning effects. If you don’t want to take a temporary hiatus, cut back on your usual intake until the infection clears.”

If you can, cool it with hot beverages. 

When to Go to the Doctor

According to Healthline, if this is your first time dealing with a tongue-piercing infection or if it gets severe, see a doctor. If you are experiencing severe discomfort, severe swelling, or severe pain then it’s time to pay your doctor a visit. 

Don’t hesitate to treat infections, even though they may seem harmless, it can lead to hospitalization and death. 

Avoiding Tongue Piercing Infection

Of course, nobody wants to have their tongue piercing infected. Here are some tips you can use to reduce your chances of infection:

Avoid Smoking 

Avoid smoking weed and cigarettes while your piercing is healing. The nicotine in cigarettes can prolong healing and weed may cause dry mouth.

Both scenarios aren’t ideal for piercing that’s trying to heal. If you have to use weed, consider other methods of delivery besides smoking. 

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene 

Besides your daily saline solution rinses, you can use alcohol-free mouthwashes after meals. That’s in addition to brushing and flossing every day. 

Don’t Play With the Piercing 

Yes, it’s pretty tempting to want to play with your new piercing. However, how it’s best that you don’t disturb it outside of cleaning it. Healthline says, “Moving the jewelry around can increase swelling and irritation, as well as introduce new bacteria into the holes.”

It’s also advised not to remove the jewelry until the piercing is healed. Piercings generally heal in about two months. 

Remember to also make sure the shop you’re going to is clean and sterile. A dirty shop and using materials that aren’t sterile can cause your piercings to be infected. 


Sometimes piercings get infected. The symptoms of a mildly infected tongue piercing may mirror the early stages of the healing process. In that case, you may be able to just use home remedies until it clears up. However, severe symptoms require going to a doctor because they can progress and become more serious over time. In any event, if even if you have a mild infection, seeing a doctor is never a bad idea.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].