Bacterial infection is the main risk associated with body piercings, according to official NHS guidance.
An abscess may form around the piercing site, which – if left untreated – has the potential to cause a scar.
In some cases, it may develop into blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome, which can be very serious. Blood poisoning can also occur without an abscess.
Tongue piercings carry a small risk of bacterial infection, despite the high number of bacteria present inside the mouth.
Earlobe piercings are generally safe, but care must still be taken to keep the piercing clean and dry.
Nose piercings are riskier than earlobe piercings as the inner surface of the nose – which can’t be disinfected – holds bacteria that can cause infection.
Most local councils keep registers of piercers who have passed hygiene and safety standards, and who are regularly inspected by health and safety officers.
People are warned against piercing themselves because of the high risk of infection or scarring.