How To Treat An Infected Cartilage Piercing

How To Treat A Cartilage Piercing Infection

Cartilage piercings usually take longer to heal than earlobe piercings. They’re also prone to more complications, such as infection. For earlobe piercings, if you follow the aftercare instructions, the chances of your piercing getting infected are slim.

Cartilage piercings are a bit riskier because of the lack of blood supply to cartilage tissue. This causes the cartilage to heal very slowly compared with bone or skin.

Piercing your cartilage can be a daring statement. It’s a really cool look. To keep your piercing look its best and to avoid serious complications, follow this simple guide. An infected cartilage piercing is a serious matter, though. If you fear that the infection has developed significantly, seek urgent medical treatment.

Treat an infected cartilage piercing with:

  • Salt water soak
  • Chamomile compress
  • Cold compress
  • Antibiotics

What Causes Cartilage Piercing Infections?

Infections occur when your body’s trying to defend itself from unfriendly microorganisms, such as bacteria. Infection occurs when bacteria or germs enter the hole of the new piercing and begin to multiply rapidly.

Your risk of infection decreases the longer you have your piercing. This is because fresh open wounds are more prone to infection, and are more at risk due to:

  • Playing with the jewelry
  • Lack of sterilization
  • Poor aftercare

Playing with the Jewelry

That new shiny piercing is so alluring, and it’s easy to rub it or twirl it around a bit. Your hands are teeming with dirt and bacteria, though. The more you touch it, the more you put the open wound at risk of coming in contact with harmful bacteria. If you have to touch it, make sure you thoroughly clean your hands before.

Unsterile Tools or Unsanitary Practices

Experienced and reputable piercers ensure that everything from their gloves to their piercing needles are clean during the process. Avoid that tempting kiosk at the mall and go to a professional — especially for a cartilage piercing.

Not Adhering to Aftercare Instructions

Your piercer should’ve provided you with information on how to properly clean and care for your new piercing until it fully heals. If you aren’t cleaning your piercing twice a day with a saline or salt-water solution, you put yourself at a higher risk for infection. It’s important to consistently clean to prevent infection. 

Signs and Symptoms of an Infected Cartilage Piercing

It’s essential to keep a close eye on your piercing throughout the entire healing process. Be on the lookout for these warning signs to catch the infection in its early stages:

  • Discharge
  • Pain
  • Rend and tender skin


It’s normal for the piercing to have some white or clear discharge while healing. If the piercing drains yellow or green pus, it’s a sign of an infection. If there’s a lot of pus and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, seek medical attention. This means that your infection has developed quite a bit already.

Infected Tragus Piercing

Increasing Pain

With any piercing, you’ll experience some pain and discomfort in the beginning. This pain shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should feel like a mild throbbing. If the pain continues to increase in intensity and doesn’t seem to be going away, you should be on high alert.

Red and Tender Skin

Is the skin surrounding the piercing a deep-red color and is sensitive to the touch? This could mean your piercing is inflamed.

If your entire body is feeling overheated and tender, you may be experiencing a fever or have an abnormally high body temperature. These are all signs of an infection.

Keep in mind that it’s normal for your skin to have some redness and be sensitive for the first few days. Similar to pain, if it doesn’t go away or gets worse, you could be experiencing an infection. If the redness goes away and comes back, this is also an indicator of infection.

How to Treat an Infected Cartilage Piercing

You shouldn’t stop your routine cleaning process. Continue soaking and cleaning the piercing in a saline solution twice a day, at least. You can do these things alongside them or incorporate them into your routine.

Salt-Water Soak

You should already be cleaning your piercing at least twice a day with a saline solution. Using salt-water is better than saline because you can control its temperature at home. Using warm salt-water will have a soothing effect on the affected site.

  1. Mix half a teaspoon of sea salt in 16 ounces of warm water
  2. Soak a cotton ball with the solution
  3. Clean around all sides of the piercing and surrounding area
  4. Repeat three times per day until symptoms subside
  5. Continue doing this twice per day until the wound closes up

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the H2Ocean Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is every single ingredient completely natural, but the spray works brilliantly on all skin types (including sensitive skin), and comes in a generously-sized can.​ When using it from the very start of the healing process, it appears to decrease healing times and helps to reduce any lingering pain/soreness.​

Warm Compress

The key to treating early infections is to disinfect and soothe. You can continue using the salt-water solution by applying a soaked gauze on the infection. If you’re looking for something more soothing, apply a steeped tea bag of chamomile gently on the piercing.

Be sure to let the tea bag cool down to a warm, comfortable temperature. Its healing properties and warm feeling will be wonderful for your inflamed piercing. It’ll also help increase blood flow, which can also be done even if your cartilage piercing isn’t infected — it can help speed up the healing process.

Cold Compress

You should alternate between different temperature compresses. You can use a standard ice pack wrapped in paper towels, here. This works to further increase the blood flowing to the cartilage tissue. Since cartilage has less blood flowing to it than other areas in the body, it can make a big difference: more blood, more antibodies.

The Infection Isn’t Going Away

If your infected cartilage seems to be getting worse and the symptoms aren’t going away, you should see a doctor. This means you may need to be treated with antibiotics. Infections can easily spread out of the cartilage into the other parts of your ear. Don’t risk that potential life-long damage, consult with your piercer or doctor as soon as possible.

All Hope Isn’t Lost

Cartilage piercings are super cool and can be an impressive statement piece. That coolness can come with risks. Since the piercing is essentially an open hole in a location with low blood flow, it takes a long time to heal. During this entire healing period, that open wound will be vulnerable to infection. Infection can begin with a naïve twirling of your earring or forgetting to wash with the salt-water one night.

Keep an eye out for any prolonged redness, pain and agitation. If you feel that your body temperature is higher than usual, see a doctor. Fever is an indicator of a more developed infection. Home remedies are okay for when you’re just experiencing some mild symptoms. A salt soak or cold compress won’t be able to combat a full-fledged infection spewing discharge. Keep an eye out and seek medical attention if necessary.

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