An ear piercing is a hole through your earlobe or the cartilage in your middle or upper ear. An infected ear piercing may be red, swollen, sore, warm, itchy or tender. Sometimes the piercing oozes blood or white, yellow or greenish pus.
A new piercing is an open wound that can take several weeks to fully heal. During that time, any bacteria (germs) that enter the wound can lead to infection.
What causes infected ear piercings?
If bacteria gets into a new piercing, it can lead to infection. You may expose your new piercing to harmful bacteria by:
- Getting your ears pierced in an unhygienic environment or with unsterilized equipment.
- Touching your ears with dirty hands.
- Removing your earrings before the piercing heals.
- Neglecting to clean your new piercings daily.
- Swimming or submerging your head in a pool, hot tub, lake or river before your piercings fully heal.
What are the symptoms of infected ear piercings?
Some pain and redness are part of the normal healing process for pierced ears. It can be easy to confuse those with signs of infection. Symptoms that may indicate an infection include:
- Discharge coming out of the piercing.
- Redness, warmth or swelling around the piercing.
- Tenderness in the pierced earlobe or cartilage.
What are the complications of infected ear piercings?
Leaving an infected piercing untreated can result in a more severe infection or an abscess (a swollen area filled with pus). Upper ear piercings are more likely to get infected. Left untreated, these infections can spread into your body (called a systemic infection).
How are infected ear piercings treated?
Your healthcare provider may recommend a variety of treatments to help an infected ear piercing heal. These may include:
- Applying a warm compress to the infected earlobe or cartilage.
- Rinsing the infected earlobe with sterile saline.
- Using antibiotic ointment on the affected area.
- Taking oral antibiotics for more severe infections.
How can I prevent a pierced ear infection?
Taking good care of your piercings is key to preventing infection. You should:
- Leave your earrings in day and night until the piercings fully heal.
- Wash your hands before touching your earlobes or cartilage.
- Wash the piercing twice daily with a mild soap or cleanser.
- Apply rubbing alcohol and/or antibiotic ointment to the area twice daily.
- Gently rotate the earrings daily after applying antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to lubricate the piercing.
Read more about: Infected Ear Piercing: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment