Infected Ear Piercing Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Remedies


How do you tell that your ear piercing is infected? What are the treatment options available? Get insight on causes, signs, how to treat, care for and cleaning pierced ear infection.


How do you tell if your ears are infected from a piercing?The common signs and symptoms to watch out for both a new, healing and old piercing include the following: 

1. Redness around pierced site

One of the signs of an infection is marked by a noticeable change in color, especially around the earring hole. Redness accompanied by persistent pain should be taken seriously. Sometimes there may be inflamed streaks or thread-like marks or lines that radiate from the site.

2. Swelling and discharges

Secondly, it is expected that slight swelling should occur after the process. It could be pierced earlobes or cartilage. However, if the swelling does not subside after the second day, that could be dangerous.

In some cases, the swelling may extend to the glands in the neck region and you should have a sore feeling in your neck or jaw.

Swelling may be worsened by a drainage from the piercing holes. A discharge with brown, grey, yellow-greenish color marked by a bad, foul smell will indicate there is an infection. Piercing experts have argued that a clear discharge is normal while healing. This discharge would actually be lymph fluid.

3. Bumps

Going on with signs to look is the formation of bumps especially when they appear reddened. This is less unlikely and not always the case as “inflammation can develop at the site from irritation from the piercing rather than infection.” [].

4. Bleeding

Another sign to observe is blood oozing from your pierced site or earring hole. This sign/symptom can point out the fact that you may have a problem with earring material or complication or you injured it. Besides being an infection symptom, bleeding excessively must not be taken lightly when it occurs frequently.

5. Tenderness

Tenderness to touch in the skin around the earlobe, conch or cartilage is another probable symptom of infections. Children will complain more because they have tendency to touch whenever they feel an increased sensitivity or irritation.

6. Fever

A common severe symptom of infection is a fever. Unless you have a cold or flu or other-related infections, fever should be a cause of worry. Its a common problem in kids in severe infection cases.

What causes them

We are going to look at how infection would occur during piercing or healing and after healing but the main cause of infection is due to germs - bacteria, fungi or certain viruses.

On new piercings

Depending on where you get your ear pierced, the infection could occur in any individual (babies or children and adults) who have recently been piercing. Here are the reasons: 

1. Use of unsterilized equipment

Infection may occur if your piercer uses equipment either contaminated or already used to pierce another customer.

2. Touching

It majorly involves the transfer of disease-causing germs from the piercer’s hands to tools or directly to your ears. It may also occur while inserting the posts because the whole procedure must have a contact between the source of contamination and the ears.

3. Bad or poor quality earrings

Thirdly, a new piercing may get infected by earrings cause that irritation that will result in itching. Continued itching perforates the skin for easy microorganisms.

Consequently, according to Simple Remedies, microorganisms act as antigens, which triggers the body’s immune system, leading to the formation of pus after inflammation. An example of the poor material is Nickel.

Cheap (inexpensive) earrings, too tight, can as well lead to inflammation. Heavy metal bars from earlobes can leave stretched.

Old Ones 

How do old pierced ears become infected? Do not be surprised to get your completely healed or old one gets infected months, or years later. Some of the common ways through which they get infected include:

  • Touching with dirty hands or allowing your friends touch, hold the jewelry or exchange them “swapping,”
  • Removing or occasionally changing the jewelry
  • Injury on pierced hole causing trauma, surgery, etc.
  • Bacterial infections e e.g. perichondritis,
  • Swimming in contaminated water pools, etc.

On Earlobe

These parts tend to get easily infected because they are frequently touched. The good thing is that, as opposed to the cartilage (if well taken care of and treated), an infected earlobe heal faster since it is less rigid and supplied with blood vessels.

On baby and risks

Does your baby’s ear piercing appear to be infected? The once admirable pierced earlobes of a baby daughter with cute looks may end up regret if you do not consider the factors before getting them pierced. This implies that if you rush into making quick decisions to pierce your child is very risky.

Basing on the fact that infants still have developing immune systems, Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., strongly encourages parents to be patient until their babies have reached 6 months or older prior to piercing plans.

In addition, young children have juvenile and poor judgments which may make them begin to pull the piercing jewelry – earrings or bars. Doing so repeatedly and “traumatizing the area greatly increases the chances that a person will develop keloids,” Dr. Murase warns.

1. Symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms may be similar to babies we highlighted earlier. They include redness, pain, swelling, tenderness and itching, fever (in case the infection is severe).

2. Treatment 

It is widely recommended to take your daughter to a health facility or doctor for proper medication to counter infection and other post-infection risks at large. {Allergic reactions, keloids, irritation, etc.}

Other curative measures that parents should adopt include regularly cleaning piercing of their daughters with recommended solutions or those provided during treatment at the clinic. Besides preventing it, this will minimize the baby’s chances of pulling or touching due to irritation or itching.


How do you treat such infections? Treatment will rely on the information based on symptoms. For instance, are the infection symptoms severe or minor? Is treatment targeting an adult or child? We shall focus on treatments provided by health centers and then home remedies.

1. Antibiotics

There are two broad categories of these medications which include the non-prescription and strength prescription antibiotics.

Most of the topical drugs available at your locale or over the counter medications are non-prescribed. They are widely used on speculation that they cure minor infection symptoms like swelling. They include oral drugs, ointments, and creams, for instance, Neosporin. Before taking them to cure symptoms after piercing, patients are advised to ask relevant health practitioner for safe usage.

On the other hand, prescription medicines will treat persistent infection symptoms such as fever, severe swelling, discharges, etc. These drugs must be taken under a doctor’s instruction only to control or cure severe signs and symptoms.

2. Pain relievers

It involves the use of drugs such as Aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to kill pain that may accompany other symptoms. Note that painkillers do not guarantee a cure for infections.

If you experience severe symptoms such as frequent pain, high fever and excessive bleeding you should see your doctor who will determine what the problem is and which best treatments that you need in case of an infection.

Treatment at home

When the signs of infections are minor home remedies should clear them in a few hours or days. Not all home remedies will help cure infections. Some are only take away symptoms.

1.  Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is safe and easy to use at home. It contains an antiseptic property to fight germs and bacteria. You can apply tea tree oil as an alternative best of aspirin or chamomile tea as the natural treatment.

2.  Sea salt solution (home-made saline)

After receiving medication, you can soak your infected earlobe piercing in a warm solution of non-iodized salt. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to shot glass of warm water.

3.  Rubbing alcohol

Apart from using alcohol to clean a piercing while enhancing healing, this product can help to clear symptoms by keeping infection-causing germs at bay.

  • Make use of small cotton swab in alcohol.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol in front and at the back of infected earlobes.
  • Repeat the cleaning procedure 2 – 3 times a day.
  • Always handle your piercing with clean hands.

NOTE: avoid using rubbing alcohol to clean newly pierced ear in order to quicken healing.

4.     Warm/cold compress

A warm compress is ideal to bring down swelling and piercing bumps especially if the pierced ear is aching. On the other hand, apply a cold compress when you feel mild pain but not on wound symptomatic of bleeding.

Care, cleaning and safety tips

Learning how to take care of a piercing is important whether it is or free of infection signs and symptoms. Practicing proper care will not only be a prevention against occurrence of an infection but will also promote quicker healing and greatly help an infected case. You should observe piercing care for good health more so your baby and children.

1. Cleaning

This is something you should do routinely (daily) regardless of a newly pierced, healing or old piercing.

How do you clean your ear piercing? The best cleaning solutions should have been given by your piercer and it is expected that you follow the recommended procedures. However, you need to use saline, alcohol or an antibiotic solution. Before you touch your ears ensure your hands are clean and dry.

Using small cotton swabs, apply saline or alcohol in front and behind the piercing sites. Ensure you do not cause much disturbance to the studs, bar or earring while cleaning fresh piercing wounds.

Do not use alcohol or solutions containing alcohol if you have increased sensitivity in the skin. This may lead to further irritation make the skin around new piercing become more inflamed or dry. Another caution you must take is never to use alcohol or allow children with piercing use alcohol.

2. Anti-bacterial solutions (soaps)

This solution is what every kind of body piercing requires to keep infection-causing microorganisms away from the wounds. Besides being a common cleaning agent for hands as well as the pierced sites.

3. Do not remove the ear jewelry

Removing can easily contaminate or cause germs being transferred to the earring bars leading to infection in earring hole after placement. Besides, it may cause unnecessary injury and lead to bleeding. Unless it is an old one or you are instructed to remove ear jewelry in order to clean properly, leave them alone.

4. Avoid causing injury

Be careful while removing your tops and avoid clothes with loose strips (strings). Otherwise get used to wearing shirts, open (zipped) tops or with buttons.

5. Keep tidy

Wash your hair regularly and protect it from coming into contact with your new piercing. Moms should also keep your daughter’s hair clean or short.

Keep off swimming pools for at least 2 to 3 weeks to allow for efficient healing.

  • especially if you have an
  • ear piercing care solution
  • how to help an infected pierced ear

In summary

Failure to find an immediate solution to ear infection can lead to further complications including the formation of keloid or scar tissue. For your information, anyone can develop serious systemic diseases if you ignore going for treatment. The fundamental and best step to make in ensuring you avoid infections associated with piercing the piercing process by going to a well-trained, experienced and trusted piercer. Cleaning is mandatory and the bottom line.

Reference and Quoted Sources

  4. Debra Jaliman, MD (web), Board Certified Dermatologist.

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