What to Do If You Lose or Swallow Your Body Jewelry

Smiling black woman with red hair and a lip piercing
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Although most body piercing jewelry, especially captive bead rings and barbells, is made to be pretty secure, it’s always possible for it to come loose. You should give your barbells a little twist every few days, just to make sure they’re holding tight. CBRs (captive bead rings) should also be checked occasionally, to ensure that the bead is still held snugly in place.

If you should happen to lose the ball off your CBR or the end of your barbell, don’t panic. However, because some piercings—particularly new ones—can close up quickly, it’s important that you don’t remove the jewelry. Instead, you need to find a way to temporarily hold it in place until you can get to a piercing shop and have it fixed.

Lost Beads

CBRs usually tend to stay in place pretty well even if the ball is missing. If you have to wait a couple of days before you can get a replacement bead for it and you’re afraid the ring may fall out, wrap a piece of tape around the open section to close it up. This is not a healthy long-term solution, but you’ll be fine for a day or two until you can replace the bead.

If the CBR is in your mouth, take a small piece of chewed gum or dental wax and mold it to fit in place of the bead. Keep in mind that sugary gum kept in your mouth constantly isn’t good for your teeth; sugar-free gum would be better. Spicy gum like cinnamon or mint might burn against oral tissue, so go with something that isn’t harsh. And don’t go more than a day like this – get to the piercing shop as soon as you can.

If you lose the ball end off of a barbell, there's a good chance that the bar will manage to wriggle its way out quickly, so wad up a piece of chewed gum or dental wax and stick it over the end ASAP. Again, it's not a healthy solution, but it should be sufficient to hold the jewelry in place for a day or so; until you can get to the shop and have it repaired.

Whole Jewelry Fell Out

If the entire ring or barbell fell out and you’re afraid the piercing will close up on you before you can get to the piercing shop, you can try to re-insert the jewelry. If your piercing is healed, this shouldn’t be a problem at all. If it’s new, though, the tissue inside the fistula may still be raw and can easily be damaged by a misaligned insertion. You need to be very careful—move super slowly, and follow the exact angle of the original piercing. If you encounter any resistance, stop! You can realign the jewelry and try again, but don’t force it.

If you can’t get the jewelry back in, don’t try shoving anything else in there to hold it open. Just keep the open piercing as clean as possible (so you don’t introduce harmful bacteria inside the fistula) and get to the piercing shop as soon as possible. Even if the hole closes up a little bit, your piercer can sometimes use a taper to gently pry it back open so you don’t lose the piercing. The worst case scenario is that it closes up, and you do have to wait and have it re-pierced.

Swallowed Jewelry

If you have an oral piercing and something comes loose, it’s possible to accidentally swallow part or all of the jewelry. If you just swallow the bead from a CBR or a ball end of a barbell, which are both about the size of a bb pellet, I wouldn’t worry too much. They're mostly smooth, except for the tiny screw end on an internally threaded barbell, which doesn’t pose much problem and usually passes without incident.

Swallowing a whole CBR, depending on the size, may or may not cause a problem. Since the bead has to be missing in general to have swallowed it in the first place, then there is a small opening that could, theoretically, get caught on things on the way through the digestive system. But, since the edges are smooth and most of it is circular, it should pass without posing a risk of puncturing anything. If it’s too large to pass through the more narrow passageways of the digestive system, though, it could become lodged and create an obstruction. It's unlikely, though.

Swallowing a barbell is a little riskier, and regardless, most barbells pass through the system without incident. But because it’s longer and will have at least one small end that could poke through soft tissue, it's more likely to create a problem on the way through the digestive system than other types of body jewelry.

If you feel like you’re choking, gagging or can’t breathe, you need help to dislodge the jewelry immediately. If no one is around, you’ll have to perform the Heimlich on yourself. As soon as possible is the best time to learn how to do that, before you find yourself in danger.

Danger Signs

It may not be pleasant, but the only way you’re going to know for sure if the jewelry has passed through your body is to check your bowel movements. But unless you plan to go sifting through stool for a week, which might be necessary if you’re really that worried, it’s possible that you won’t see it.

If at any point, even a week after swallowing the object, you feel any pain or tenderness anywhere along the digestive line, have a fever, bleeding, or vomiting, get to the emergency room. If you’re a teen whose parents didn’t even know you had a piercing, this is no time to worry about getting in trouble. Internal damage can kill you.

Article Sources
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  1. Seattle Children's Hospital. Swallowed foreign object. Updated December 18, 2020.

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