Warning over ‘unsafe’ ear and body piercing cleansing spray
People who have recently had ear or body piercings are being warned about an "unsafe" cleansing spray that can cause serious infection.
The spray is being provided by piercing studios across England for cleaning the wound, Public Health England (PHE) said.
It has so far been linked to 26 cases of the infection Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This can cause serious problems and is linked to exposure to water. It can be treated with antibiotics but in some cases it can prove deadly.
People are being advised to seek urgent medical help if they think they have an infection.
The spray, which comes in 100ml bottles, has no consistent branding. It is made by Lion Care Products but some bottles say Body Art Supplies or just carry the name of the piercing studio. The bottle may also say "piercing aftercare saline solution".
PHE said that if people were unsure, they should stop using the spray immediately and return it to their local studio.
All cases so far have been ear infections, with most cases in the south east of England and the East Midlands.
But more cases are likely to crop up across the rest of England.
PHE said anyone with a recent piercing can care for it by using clean hands and submerging the skin in a clean bowl containing a warm water salt solution (1/4 level teaspoon of sea salt to one egg cup of warm water). Alternatively the solution can be applied as a compress using a clean cloth.
Signs of infection include swelling, redness, burning, unusual discharge and pain. Some people may also develop a high temperature, PHE said.
Dr Richard Puleston, a 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."