How To Treat An Infected Ear Piercing

How To Treat An Ear Piercing Infection

Ear piercings usually don’t come with too many complications. They’re often considered a rite of passage and are some of the most common piercings worldwide. The simple procedure carries a relatively low risk when compared to other body piercings.

What happens if, after a week, your ear is still red, itchy and swollen? You’re probably dealing with an infected piercing.

Usually, these infections are minor and can be treated at home with some simple remedies. If cleaned properly and maintained well, the infection should clear up within a matter of days. For minor infection in soft tissues, good hygiene and the use of an over-the-counter antibiotic cream should be enough to clear it up. If the problem persists, however, seeking medical attention is necessary.

Treat an infected ear piercing with:

  • Good hygiene
  • Salt-water solution
  • Over-the-counter antibiotic cream

What Caused My Piercing to Become Infected?

An ear piercing infection occurs when a harmful organism — usually bacteria — finds its way into your pierced ear. The bacteria begin to fester and spread, causing nasty visible symptoms, hindering the healing process.

The infection develops rapidly due to the presence of an open wound. Once the bacteria begin to multiply, you’ll start noticing the first signs of an infection. This isn’t that different from any other kind of skin infection.

The process of getting your ears pierced involves a hollow needle creating an opening in your ear. This allows the desired jewelry to be inserted. This gives things like bacteria and germs an opportunity to make their way into the hole.

If not cared for properly, that bacteria can get trapped in the hole. This can be exacerbated by neglecting to follow ear piercing cleaning instructions given to you by your piercer.

Signs and Symptoms of an Infected Ear Piercing

There are certain warning signs you need to look out for after an ear piercing. Since the procedure is so simple, people don’t really expect to experience any complications.


If there’s a deep, dark red color surrounding your piercing, you may have an infection. It can be challenging to tell when redness is a normal part of the procedure or if it’s something more serious.

Seeing some redness around your piercing shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. If the redness doesn’t subside and continues to get worse, keep a close eye on things. If it’s accompanied by excessive swelling, intense itching or increasing pain, then an infection is possible.


Some swelling can be expected after an ear piercing. It’s understandable that you’ll have some slight swelling in the first couple of days. Just like the redness, if it doesn’t start to go away on its own, you may be dealing with an infection. If the swollen area is a dark red hue and it’s hot to the touch, you should be on high alert for an infection.

Severe Pain

It’s natural to experience a good amount of pain after getting your ear pierced. If the pain continues to increase or starts to become intolerable, this is a good indicator of an infection. They can be sore for the first few days after the initial piercing — especially in your earlobes.

The pain associated with an ear piercing can be described as uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be unbearable or overwhelming.

Drainage of Pus

Pus is the ultimate indicator of infections. If infected, the piercing site will be draining a lot of yellow-green discharge. If this doesn’t slow down, you’re more than likely dealing with an infection. A little pus is totally normal after a piercing. If it continues for more than a week and seems non-stop, this should be a cause for concern.

Infected Tragus Piercing

This pus also gives off a putrid smell. Normal, healthy discharge won’t give off a bad smell. In this case, you might want to seek medical advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to infections. Infections are no joke and can spiral out of control quickly.

Treating an Infected Ear Piercing

Treating a minor earlobe infection is pretty straightforward and can usually be done without complications. If you’re experiencing something more severe, like a fever, along with the other symptoms, please call a doctor. If you just have some redness, swelling and pus, you can try to treat it at home. If the symptoms subside, good job, you did it! If they don’t, seek medical help.

Home Care for Minor Infections

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap
  2. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 16 ounces of distilled water
  3. Soak a cotton ball with the salt-water solution and clean around the piercing three times a day with it
  4. Pat dry gently with a paper towel
  5. Repeat until the infection has cleared — usually a week
  6. Continue this regimen twice per day for the next six to eight weeks.

Tips for Home Care Treatment

When to Seek Medical Attention

If, after following the above regimen for two days, the symptoms don’t begin to decrease in intensity, call a doctor. You should also be on the lookout for a few other things:

  • The infection spread beyond the piercing to other parts of your ear or the surrounding area
  • You begin to develop a fever
  • The jewelry doesn’t move or becomes enmeshed within your skin

How to Prevent Future Infections

Make sure the professionals piercing your ear are using sterile tools and hygienic practices. Whether you’re getting it done at a kiosk or at a piercing shop, make sure they’re following standard procedure.

When cleaning your piercing, don’t turn or move your earring around. This can irritate the skin around the piercing. It’s tempting to want to play with your new jewelry, but avoid doing this for the first week or two.

The most important thing is to follow a proper cleaning and aftercare routine. You have to clean your piercing at least twice daily with a sterile saline or salt-water rinse.

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.


The last thing you want after you get your cool new piercing is a nasty infection. It can be painful, itchy and potentially very harmful to your overall wellbeing. Treat the infection at home with some salt-water solution.

Be consistent and patient. If it’s a minor infection, it’ll start clearing up after a few days or a week. If the symptoms persist, please seek medical attention right away.

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