Department of Health
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Warning over infection linked to an aftercare spray for piercings

PHE is strongly advising people to stop using the product and to seek medical help urgently if they are concerned they have an infection.

Public Health England (PHE) is warning people who have recently had body piercings about an unsafe cleansing spray provided by piercing studios across the country for aftercare use, which may cause severe infection.

The product, linked to cases of serious infection, has been provided by piercing studios in many parts of the country. It is a 100ml bottled aftercare saline spray and is manufactured by Lion Care Products Ltd.

However, there is no consistent brand or label being used on the product. Some labels, using only black and white lettering, will have the manufacturer’s trading name, Body Art Supplies, or may carry the Lion Care name; other studios’ labels will use neither, but possibly just their own studio name or brand on the label. If unsure, people should stop using the spray immediately and return it to their local studio.

The spray may be linked to 26 cases of a severe infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, across England. Investigations are ongoing and PHE continue to monitor for further cases.

To date all have been ear infections, with the majority of cases occurring in the East Midlands and South East of England. However, the product is known to have been distributed widely across England therefore more cases are likely. The product has also been distributed in Scotland but to a much lesser extent. The cases have occurred in people where piercings were undertaken between mid-July and late August 2016. However, there may be other more recent cases which have not yet been reported.

PHE advice on aftercare following body piercings is to follow the guidelines provided on the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health website which include:

  • when checking the pierced site hands should be clean
  • soaking the piercing for a few minutes by submerging the area of skin containing the piercing in a clean bowl containing a warm water solution (1/4 level teaspoon of preferably sea salt to an egg cup or shot glass of warm water
  • alternatively, wetting a clean cloth or gauze in the solution and applying as a warm compress; this will soften any discharge and allow you to clean the entry and exit points of the piercing with a cotton bud or gauze
  • using mild antibacterial solutions and soaps to wash the wound site of an ear piercing; ask your local pharmacist to advise you and always follow the manufacturers’ instructions
  • if irritation, redness or drying occurs discontinue use; antibacterial wash is not suitable for piercings on the nostrils, septum or vertical lips due to the tissue’s delicate nature
  • after cleansing, drying the piercing using only fresh disposable paper towel or kitchen roll; a communal hand or bath towel should never be used

It is expected that some swelling and soreness from new piercings may occur. However, signs of infection to be aware of include:

  • swelling and redness that increases around the wound
  • a severe burning or throbbing sensation round the site
  • increased tenderness and becoming increasingly painful to touch
  • an unusual discharge (yellow or green) with an offensive smell
  • raised temperature and fever

Dr Richard Puleston, Consultant at PHE said:

Infection is not uncommon following piercings, but the particular type of bacteria linked to this outbreak can cause severe infection.

It is important that people take extra care in ensuring any piercing is properly cleansed and to follow professional advice available from local environmental health teams. If people are concerned about possible infection they are strongly advised to seek medical attention urgently.

PHE is continuing to investigate, and is liaising with the appropriate authorities in the devolved administrations, to ensure that the contaminated product is removed from piercing studios and wherever possible clients are contacted by their studio and advised to stop using the product.

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