Tragus Piercing Swelling
Tragus piercings are currently going through a popular phase — they’re kind of a step up from your regular earlobe piercing. Since they’re a relatively new trend, it’s best to get them pierced at an experienced and reputable tattoo parlor or piercing shop.
Swelling with a tragus piercing should only be a cause for concern if it isn’t reducing over time or is worsening. A few days of swelling and soreness shouldn’t be cause for alarm. If the swelling is accompanied by prolonged redness, discharge and overwhelming pain, you may be dealing with an infection.
The Risk of Tragus Piercings
Piercings in fleshy areas with high blood flow heal quickly with few complications. Tragus piercings are a little bit more complex. They can actually take much longer to recover because the piercing is going through tough cartilage which has notoriously low blood flow.
Tragus piercings take about three to six months to heal.
Along with taking longer to heal, cartilage piercings are also more prone to swelling and infection. This is also due to the lack of blood flow to the cartilage, which means that our infection-fighting cells arrive in smaller numbers when needed.
Causes of Swollen Tragus Piercings
The first thing to note is that mild swelling for a couple of days after the procedure is definitely to be expected. You’ve just had a needle poked through your skin after all. However, if the swelling lingers or continues to get worse instead of better, other factors may be at play.
If you’re not cleaning your piercing and the surrounding area properly, bacteria will find its way in. Any experienced or reputable piercer will give you detailed aftercare cleaning instructions. This usually involves cleaning your piercing twice daily with salt water or a saline solution. If you neglect to do this, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk for infection.
Continually playing with or touching your new piercing is a sure way to transfer germs and bacteria. Remember that swelling occurs as a natural reaction to an infection. This is your body’s defense system in full action. Touching your new jewelry with unwashed hands can help trap dirt in the piercing hole. If you’re dying to touch it, clean your hands thoroughly with a good antibacterial soap beforehand, and keep touching to an absolute minimum.
Anything that isn’t sterile or sanitary that comes in contact with your piercing can contribute to swelling. If you have long hair that hangs over your ears, it can get caught in the piercing. This can irritate the wound and expose it to more bacteria. Be sure to keep your hair tied up during the first couple of weeks — that applies to dudes, too!
If the jewelry has been screwed on too tightly, there might not be enough oxygen getting to the wound. Like any other open wound, piercings need room to breathe. If not given sufficient oxygen, the risk of infection increases as the wound will take longer to heal.
Is It An Infection?
If it’s just a bit of swelling, monitor it for a few days. If the swelling isn’t going away or worsening, be alert for infection. Since tragus piercings have a longer healing time, the chances of infection are higher. Look out for symptoms like:
- Redness and inflammation
- Tender skin
- Yellow or green discharge
- Prolonged bleeding
- Increasing pain
These are the most common symptoms associated with tragus piercing infections. If you experience one or a combination of these, you can try to treat it at home with some simple DIY remedies. If the symptoms persist or get worse, contact a medical professional.
If you start to experience more systematic symptoms like fever or nausea, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Remedies for Swollen Tragus Piercings
If you’re looking for some relief or think you may have a mild infection, these remedies can help you out:
Salt-Water or Saline Solution
Cleaning a piercing with a salt-water or saline solution is a gentle and effective way to promote healing and prevent infection. Here’s how to do it:
- Prepare the Saline Solution: Mix about 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt (iodine can be irritating) into one cup (8 oz) of warm distilled or bottled water. If you’re using a pre-made saline solution, ensure it’s sterile and meant for wound care (0.9% sodium chloride). Overly concentrated salt solutions can be irritating, so it’s crucial to get the proportions right.
- Clean your hands: Before you start cleaning the piercing, make sure your hands are thoroughly cleaned with an antibacterial soap to prevent introducing bacteria into the area.
- Apply the Solution: Soak a clean cotton ball or gauze in the saline solution and gently dab it onto the piercing. You can also use a clean spray bottle to spritz the solution directly onto the area.
- Soak the Piercing: Another method is to soak the piercing directly in the saline solution. To do this, fill a clean cup with the solution, bend over, and submerge the piercing in the liquid. For difficult-to-reach areas, you can also soak a clean piece of gauze in the solution and hold it against the piercing. Aim for about 5-10 minutes of soaking time.
- Rinse and Dry: After cleaning or soaking, gently rinse the area with clean, warm water to remove any salt residue, then pat the area dry with a clean paper towel. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria, so they should be avoided for drying the piercing.
- Repeat: This process should be done once or twice daily until the piercing has fully healed.
You can also purchase ready-made solutions for your piercing.
The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, 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.
Hot and Cold Compresses
Cold compresses are useful for calming inflammation. Hot compresses relax blood vessels and promote blood flow. This is important for cartilage piercings where blood flow is minimal.
For a hot compress, you can soak a piece of cloth in wam salt water and apply it directly to the piercing site.
For a cold compress, you can simply wrap an ice pack in paper towels or a clean cloth and apply it to the area. Make sure you don’t apply anything cold directly to the skin, though, as this can cause burns to the area and delay healing.
What to Do About Swelling That Isn’t Reducing or Is Getting Worse
Excessive swelling or prolonged swelling of a tragus piercing that’s not improving or is getting worse could be a sign of infection or other complication, and you should seek medical attention promptly. Infections can be serious if not addressed and can lead to permanent damage.
Here are some general steps to take if you notice excessive swelling:
- Don’t Remove the Jewelry: If the piercing is infected, removing the jewelry could potentially trap the infection inside, leading to an abscess. The jewelry acts as a drain, allowing the pus to exit the body.
- Apply a Cold Compress: Apply a clean, cold compress to the area for 15 minutes at a time to help reduce swelling. Be sure to wrap the compress in a clean cloth or paper towel to avoid direct contact with the piercing.
- Continue Cleaning: Continue to clean the area with saline solution as described earlier, but do not over-clean as this can irritate the piercing and delay healing.
- Over-the-counter Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help with swelling and discomfort. However, you should always follow the instructions on the bottle and avoid using these for an extended period of time without consulting with a healthcare provider.
- Consult with a Healthcare Provider: If the swelling persists, gets worse, or is accompanied by severe pain, redness, heat, or pus-like discharge, consult with a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They may prescribe antibiotics or take other appropriate action.
A swollen tragus piercing shouldn’t be a significant cause for concern, and you should only seem further advice if the swelling gets worse or you’re experiencing other symptoms associated with infection.
If you fear that you may have an infection, go to your piercer for a consultation first. They’ll be able to advise if you should see a medical professional.