Tragus Piercing Infections: Symptoms & Treatment

  • Written By Dan Hunter on September 18, 2019
    Last Updated: October 22, 2020

Tragus piercings are often seen as some of the most eye-catching ear piercings of all and have become really popular in recent years. Unfortunately, tragus piercing infections are also a very real possibility if you’re not very careful with your ear-piece.

Unfortunately, infections are a possibility with any type of piercing. Tragus piercings are certainly no exception. Infections usually manifest in the days or weeks after the piercing procedure took place, and can include a variety of symptoms that can be seen and felt.

Read on as we discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment methods for tragus piercing infections.


Sign & Symptoms

Tragus piercing infections are never a positive development, but fortunately, they’re easy to detect and can then be dealt with appropriately. If you end up with a tragus piercing infection, you’ll be able to not only see it, but feel it.

Tragus pain and swelling will nearly always occur when you get a new piercing, but if the pain and swelling persist longer than a few days after your piercing was done, there is likely a problem.

That’s when you should have your piercing checked out, as the continued pain and swelling could be a warning sign of infection.

Visually, you’re likely to notice not only the afore-mentioned swelling, but also other signs, such as redness and inflammation. You may even be able to see sores around your piercing or the discharge of discolored fluids from the wound.

While continued pain is one sign of a tragus piercing infection, increasing pain is also a telltale sign. Your pain levels shouldn’t increase in the days after your piercing is done. If this happens, get your piercing looked at right away.

Seek medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling that doesn’t reduce after 48 hours
  • An area that becomes noticeably warm to the touch
  • Persistent of worsening redness and inflammation
  • Severe or worsening pain
  • Bleeding from the wound after 48 hours
  • Colored or smelly discharge

Causes

As with all infections, the biggest cause of tragus piercing infections is related to a lack of necessary preventative care. For instance, when people do not clean their piercings properly, infections can easily occur.

In addition, tragus piercing infections sometimes happen when an inexperienced body piercer does the piercing and fails to do it the correct way, or doesn’t practice proper hygiene protocols at the shop.

The exposure of the tragus only heightens the possibility of infection. Since your tragus is hard to cover up and is regularly exposed to dirt, germs, and other contaminants, it is simply easier to become infected when compared to other piercings that are more hidden from the elements.

Other reasons an infection might develop include:

  • Excessive touching: Touching the piercing with unwashed hands or dirty instruments can transfer bacteria to the wound.
  • Lack of oxygen: Piercing jewelry that’s initially fitted too tightly can cut oxygen supplies to the area, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Hair: Hair that constantly touches and bushes against the tragus can cause irritation to the area and expose the wound to additional oils and bacteria, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Healing times: Tragus piercings can take quite a long time to heal, which means bacteria have a longer timeframe to infiltrate the wound, increasing the risk of infection.
Tragus Piercing Infection

How To Treat An Infected Tragus Piercing

What most people instinctively do upon learning they have an infection is not the right response. What is this instinctive action? Taking out your jewelry.

It may seem like taking out your jewelry is a good idea when you’ve developed an infected piercing, but if your piercing is fresh, this can allow it to close up.

If your piercing does close up, it will trap the infection inside and be unable to heal properly. Consult with your body piercing professional before taking off your jewelry.

The best course of treatment is the same as your aftercare routine, which includes regular, but not excessive cleaning. Use a sea salt/saline soak on the area 2-4 times a day. If you’d like to make your own solution, dissolve ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt into 1 cup of warm water, and apply to the area using a cottom swab.

If you’d rather buy a solution instead of making your own, there are plenty of variations available in-store and online.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.

Try a Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress to the wound can boost healing by reducing inflammation and irritation, which will help to alleviate pain and swelling.

To make your own compress, put a clean, damp towel or cloth in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time to ensure it doesn’t get too hot.

You can also buy pre-made compresses that contain herbal mixtures and rice grains to help trap warmth increase swelling relief.

If you wish, you can also add these items to your homemade compress. Just make sure to seal the towel/cloth securely so ingredients don’t fall out.

To use a warm compress:

  • If you’ve made a compress, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time. Repeat until the compress is warm, but not too hot.
  • If you’re using a pre-made compress, heat it as directed on the product labeling.
  • Apply the compress to the infected piercing area for up to 20 minutes at a time, twice per day if possible.

You can also use two compresses at the same time, or fold your compress over to ensure you’re treating both sides of the piercing. Alternatively, you can just keep switching between the two sides.

What Happens After A Tragus Piercing Infection?

Make sure you’ve consulted with your piercer about what steps to take. Follow the instructions that you’ve been given and don’t do anything such as removing jewelry without being advised to do so.

There are other things that you should also avoid after sustaining a tragus piercing infection. For instance, don’t swim, because chlorinated water will often complicate your infection and make it worse.

Many people believe that chlorinated water can help keep their piercings clean, but this isn’t the case; it can be a major irritant.

If you wear makeup, be very careful about keeping it away from your piercing. This shouldn’t be a problem with a tragus piercing in the way that it might be with facial piercings, but there are other risks associated with ear piercings.

For example, shampoo can collect itself underneath your jewelry, which isn’t going to be helpful at all. Rinse the area well when you shower and continue your aftercare program to keep your infection from recurring.

Prevention

Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you may guess to prevent tragus piercing infections. The fundamental point to take away from this is to have your tragus piercing performed by an experienced professional.

True professional body piercers know how to perform the piercing the right way and provide you with the guidance you need for proper aftercare.

Your tragus piercing may cost slightly more when done by an experienced professional, but this small additional charge is definitely worth it in the long run.

The jewelry you choose will also play a large part in whether you develop an infection or not. It’s important to choose hypoallergenic materials such as stainless steel and titanium for your jewelry to ensure you don’t develop an allergic reaction.

Finally, your regular cleaning and care regimen is of the utmost importance. If you don’t follow the care guidelines you’ve been given, you put yourself at unnecessary risk of developing a painful and annoying infection.

Summary

In the vast majority of cases, tragus piercings have a very uneventful healing process that doesn’t lead to any complications.

However, if you don’t follow your aftercare instructions, don’t get your piercing done by an experienced professional, or neglect to respond to an infection right away by following your body piercer’s instructions, you can increase your risks considerably.