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On Belly Buttons and Infection Prevention

Monday, November 04, 2013

By Jennifer Gooden

Some of us ACHDers have to take prophylactic or preventive antibiotics before routine procedures like teeth cleaning. I am one of those people whose cardiologist suggests that I take antibiotics before teeth cleaning and getting piercings. My doctor recommends taking antibiotics preventively to protect against a serious heart infection called bacterial endocarditis.

The long and short of bacterial endocarditis is that getting an infection at the site of the procedure (like in your mouth) that travels to your already-compromised heart—like one with congenital heart defect—can have serious consequences.

When I wanted to get my belly button pierced as a teen, my mom said I could only if my cardiologist said it was OK and was safe. So I asked and he said as long as I took antibiotics before and daily for one week, then I could. Well, I couldn't leave well enough and had to ask why. My cardiologist explained it to me and still I asked why. What is one dose of antibiotics going to do if you get an infection? I was finally told that “that's the way it's been done.” So I listened and took my antibiotics and got my belly button pierced and didn't get any infection.

Flash forward 10 years—wow, I have really had my belly button pierced that long!

Some people are at a higher risk of bacterial endocarditis. If you wonder if you really need those antibiotics, ask your cardiologist. Remember, if they say you do need them, keep on taking them! Professionals know best!


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