How to Treat an Infected Ear Piercing

Four Parts:Recognizing an infectionSeeking medical treatmentHome remediesLowering the chances of getting an infection next time

While piercings look great, sometimes problems arise—including skin infections. They are easy to treat by simply following your doctor's advice, as long as you know the signs and don't hesitate to treat an infected piercing as soon as you recognize it. This article will help you recognize the signs of infection, how you will treat it, and how to prevent infections in the future.

Part 1
Recognizing an infection

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    Look for telltale signs. While it's normal to have some pain and redness around the piercing site for up to two days, any more than that should be cause for concern. Keep your eye out for the following symptoms:
    • Red, inflamed streaks or marks on the skin that radiate out from the piercing site.
    • Increased pain, redness, swelling, heat, or tenderness around the piercing site.
    • A thick yellow-green pus-like discharge coming from the piercing site. It's normal to see a bit of oozing or bleeding from the piercing which is a sign of healing, but be alert for pus combined with swelling and redness.
    • Swollen or tender lymph glands above or below the piercing. With an ear piercing, you may feel sore and swollen glands in your neck around your jawline.
    • Fever. If you're otherwise healthy (no cold or flu), and you develop a fever, this is cause for concern.

Part 2
Seeking medical treatment

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    Make an appointment. If the above symptoms occur, make a doctor’s appointment as quickly as possible, and avoid possibly serious complications.
    • Note that while most problems happen around the time of piercing, they can become infected months or even years after the initial pierce.[1]
    • Signs of an allergic reaction versus an infection include burning sensation on the skin, an expanding wound, and a clear yellow discharge.
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    Visit your doctor. They will provide specific advice on how to treat your particular infection. While not everybody will get the same treatment, doctors often recommend following these steps while treating an infected piercing:
    • Do not remove your jewelry unless instructed by your doctor. Keeping the jewelry in ensures proper drainage and helps to prevent an abscess from forming.
      • If you are having an allergic reaction to the metal, the doctor will have you remove the jewelry.
    • Use an antibiotic cream or antibiotic tablets. You will have to either apply the cream topically or take pills as prescribed, usually for ten to fourteen days. Most infections of this nature are caused by Staphylococcus[2], so be sure to follow the prescribed course of antibiotics so that you completely eradicate the staph bacteria.

Part 3
Home remedies

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    Practice an ounce of prevention. Follow the instructions of your piercing studio regarding cleaning a new ear piercing.
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    Keep the pierced area clean.[3] Wash your hands well before treating your piercing, then wash the piercing once or twice a day with antibacterial soap.
    • Remove any developed crust with a cotton swab that has been moistened with antibacterial soap, saline solution or the solution you were given when your ears were pierced.
    • Avoid topical treatments such as alcohol or peroxide, which can dry your skin, or ointments, which can prevent fresh air from getting to the piercing.
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    Clean with salt water. Boil a cup of water and let it cool down. Add a few spoons of sea salt. Clean the infected/inflamed area for one week, plus.
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    Apply a warm, moist compress to the site for about 20 minutes per day to help drain any pus. This will increase blood flow to the earlobe and will help to prevent infection.
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    Avoid irritating the piercing. Only touch the ear if you’re cleaning the piercing, and keep clothing away from the site: it can cause excessive friction or rubbing, which can irritate the skin.
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    Stay out of the pool. Avoid pools, rivers, lakes, hot tubs, and other places that may harbor infectious bacteria.

Part 4
Lowering the chances of getting an infection next time

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    Work with professionals. A professional piercer who follows local health department guidelines is the best way to prevent infection. A professional will also use procedures to prevent against the transmission of blood-borne diseases, like tetanus or HIV.
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    Use a properly licensed piercing studio. Your state, county or city health department will have information on licensing requirements for piercing studios.
    • Avoid performing the piercing yourself or having an untrained friend perform the piercing. while the process itself is not difficult, having sterile tools and antiseptic procedures are required to minimize the chances of infection.
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    Make sure the piercer uses appropriate equipment. Piercers should wash their hands between piercings and wear a fresh pair of protective gloves for each piercing. Ear-piercing guns should never be used as they cannot be sterilized properly (unless they use a disposable piercing gun) and the jewelry is relatively blunt which causes unnecessary damage to the piercing. An actual professional piercer (with years of apprenticeship and experience) will never use a piercing-gun.[4]
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    Make sure that the piercer sterilizes all non-disposable equipment. An autoclave is a machine that piercers often use to sterilize equipment. For equipment that will not fit into the autoclave, such as drawer handles, tables and sinks, piercers should sterilize the equipment with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.
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    Expect your piercer to use hypoallergenic jewelry. Surgical steel, titanium, niobium or 14 or 18-carat gold are appropriate for a new piercing. Avoid nickel, which commonly causes allergic reactions.


  • Do not change your earrings everyday as this increases the chance of infection.
  • If you have an infection and your earrings happen to be in, DO. NOT. take them out unless told by a doctor to do so. If you do, and the hole closes up, you have just blocked the only escape route for the infection.
  • Put ice on any swelling so it will go down.
  • Always wash your hands before handling any ear related issues.
  • Make sure you clean your ears twice a day making sure your preventing infection anyway possible.
  • If you have long hair try to keep it away from your ear lobe by tying it up - this can help prevent infections.
  • If your ears start bleeding remove the blood from the surface and wash your ear as soon as possible.
  • Put an ice cube on your ear lobe if it is feeling hot and red. This might be a sign of an infection.
  • If your ears get irritated shortly after changing for the first time, replace the earrings with the original ones.
  • Change your bedding on a regular basis, particularly your pillowcase.
  • Take a bath instead of a shower if you have an infected ear piercing so that the infected area has a better chance of staying dry. Also, avoid swimming or submerging your head in water so that you don’t allow moisture into the infection site.
  • You may develop an allergic reaction to a piercing that will manifest itself in the form of dry, itchy skin, a rash or blistering. In these cases, because irritated skin is more likely to become infected, you may have no choice but to remove the earring. Ask your doctor if you can insert a more hypoallergenic piece of jewelry such as gold in its place if you are worried about losing the piercing.
  • Take Vitamin C and a multivitamin to encourage faster healing for your piercing.
  • Use tea tree oil on it every two days.
  • If you have an infection and possibly scabs clean with rubbing alcohol then dip earring in neosporin and put earring back in the hole.
  • When cleaning your piercing, rotating the jewel may help for a more thorough cleaning and to keep the hole open.
  • If you had piercings in the infected ear, disinfect the piercing.
  • Do not sleep on your infected ear as it can push the earring and will hurt!
  • Twirl your earrings around daily for prevention of infection.
  • Even if your ears have minor pain and it has been a few weeks you should take your earings out, clean them and then put the earings back in.
  • Get alcohol wipes and rub it on the infection.
  • If you are experiencing a lot of pain try taking some OTC pain medications like Ibuprofen and make sure to get lots of rest. If it persists make sure to inform your healthcare provider.
  • Don't worry if the infection persists for less than 24 hours.
  • You also should never put damp, warm cloths on the infection because the humidity would cause more bacteria to appear.
  • Don't play with your earrings. Your hands are full of bacteria that causes infection.
  • Take your earrings out for a short period of time. This can help reduce swelling and redness. Make sure to replace them quickly with hypo-allergenic earrings, such as gold ones.
  • Clean your earrings with peroxide if their infected. Also, take the backs out or the whole earring if you can and soak it in peroxide or warm water with salt.
  • You may want to have your ears re-pierced after the infection clears up.
  • Whatever you do, do not scratch your infected ear. This will only make it worse!


  • If you have an infection in your ear cartilage, then see a doctor without exception. Infected cartilage may develop scar tissue if not treated promptly by a doctor. The cartilage is the thicker tissue in the upper portion of the outer ear, located above the earlobe.
  • Always visit a doctor if you have infection symptoms. Don’t try to treat an infection at home without getting the advice of a doctor first. Staph infections (the most common type of skin infection) can have serious consequences if not treated.

Things You'll Need

  • Antibacterial soap
  • Distilled water
  • Cotton swabs
  • Warm compression packs
  • Antibiotic cream or prescription antibiotic pills

Article Info

Categories: Ear Piercing