Ear Piercing Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Ear piercing, a form of ear modification, punctures any part of the ear, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn.

Body piercings on the tongue, nose, ear or smiley piercing are a unique way to look fashionable.

A piercing is an open wound that is likely to become infected at any time.

However, skin infections arising from this styling method are quite common. Even the old piercing can be subjected to infection.

Ear infections are simple to treat if detected early and treated appropriately. But it can become a serious issue if you don’t pay attention to avoid infection or don’t treat it as soon as signs of infection appear.

If not treated immediately, an infection could damage your ear or take longer to heal. In some people, it may even become a systemic infection.

In this article, we shall discuss ways to identify its symptoms as well as how to treat infected cartilage piercing. Also read, what causes the ear cartilage infection and how minor infections can be treated at home.

Causes of Ear Piercing Infection

Infection of the wounds is common within a few days of a freshly performed piercing. It takes about 4 weeks or a little more to entirely cure the open wounds on the ear.

Aside from infections, cartilage piercing may cause a variety of other problems.

In a study of 497 female patients, Biggar and Haughie found that 30% of them had redness and swelling, 26% had drainage, 24% had an infection, 11% had to bleed, 4% formed cysts, 3% had large scars, and 2% had been hurt or torn.

An ear piercing can get infected in a variety of ways. Usually, the bacterial infection makes the piercing wounds go bad and cause trouble for the ear.

Bacterial infection can occur due to poor hygiene or improper initial piercing technique.

Upper ear cartilage piercing is more likely to get infected than lobe piercing.

Consider some of the factors that aggravate infectious conditions:

  • Use of unsterilized piercing instruments and posts
  • Traumatic tearing of a pierced tunnel
  • The presence of a foreign body in a new skin or earlobe opening
  • Frequent touching of the pierced area with fingers
  • Wearing tight or large earrings that hurt the earlobes
  • Using poor-quality earrings and studs (especially those with rough posts),
  • Forceful insertion of ear studs in a fresh piercing
  • Persons with any immune-compromised state
  • Preexisting deformities at the piercing site, such as psoriasis or dermatitis
  • The presence of skin pathogens such as streptococcal species and staphylococcal species in the piercing area
  • Allergic reactions to certain metals, like nickel

Ear Infection Symptoms

How do you know when your ear piercing is infected?

If you know the common symptoms of a piercing infection, you can very well detect it.

Early detection of infection and appropriate treatment are required to contain the infection in its early stages.

How can you tell if your ear piercing has become infected?

Here are the common symptoms and signs of an infected ear piercing:

  • Even after 48 hours, there is still pain and swelling in the pierced area.
  • Bleeding or discharge of pus from the affected area continues after 2 days of piercing.
  • Increasing tenderness around the piercing
  • A white or red bump on the earlobes
  • Dark scarring or boil-like swelling on the earlobes
  • Fever and physical discomfort are common (especially in children), and some people may also experience nausea and headaches.
  • Firmly stick ear studs or posts in the opening.

Ways To Treat An Infected Ear Piercing

The healing process of earlobe infection should begin with proper medical and personal care.

The most visible infection symptom is the continuous oozing of infected ear-piercing pus.

Pain, bleeding, reddish wounds, enlarging wounds, or swelling that lasts more than two days after the piercing indicates possible infection.

Note that infections from the piercing can occur even after several months or years, though usually in the first week after the piercing.

If you notice any symptoms of infection after two days of piercing, it is important to seek medical treatment from a physician.

Consulting a doctor and receiving medical treatment on time will help avoid severe complications that might cause serious damage to the ear.

In most cases, having an oral antibiotic is enough to heal the infection.

Some of the most effective treatments for piercing infections include:

  • Remove the jewelry if allergic reactions to metals cause the infection;
  • Keep wearing the studs or earrings to prevent abscess formation and to keep the pierced tunnel open.
  • Use the antibiotic cream or pills as recommended by the doctor.
  • Complete the full course of medicine till the bacteria are fully eliminated.
  • Follow the expert’s instructions at the piercing studio regarding cleaning and protecting the newly pierced ear.
  • Do not touch the pierced wounds with your hands; if you have to, wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Clean around the wound with a cotton swab soaked in an antibacterial solution or saline water twice a day.
  • Do not use peroxide, alcohol, or non-prescribed antibiotic ointments; using them might dry up the skin and block the pierced tunnel.
  • Use a warm, moist compress over the infected wound to drain out the pus and increase the blood flow to the affected area.
  • Make sure that your clothes or hair don’t brush against the wound.
  • Avoid swimming in the pool or river until the piercing wounds are healed.

Tips for Preventing the Infection

You can prevent the ear-piercing from becoming infectious by adopting healthy preventive steps.

I suggest a few preventive methods to help prevent infections while doing a new ear piercing or protecting the old earlobe piercing.

  • Clean and sterilize the posts, studs, and earrings that you wear; do not allow dirt to gather around the ear jewelry.
  • Do not unnecessarily touch the newly pierced ear until the wounds are healed.
  • Clean the piercing wound with cotton swabs and prescribed lotions.
  • Do not wear earrings and studs while you sleep at night (do not remove posts or studs from a new piercing).
  • Do not use rough and coarse jewelry, as this might hurt the ear-piercing; also, avoid using low-quality imitation jewelry with loose enamels, colors, and low-grade plastic or metal.
  • Avoid wearing tight earrings and large studs.
  • In case of severe infection, remove the piercing jewelry.
  • Avoid using heavy and loosely dangling earrings, as they can tear the earlobe.
  • Make sure that the headphones and earphones you use are clean and germ-free.

How To Clean An Infected Ear

Proper cleaning of pierced wounds is necessary for faster healing of wounds and stopping infections. To stop the infection from spreading, it is also important to clean the right way.

Before washing the infected piercing, ensure your hands are clean and bacteria-free.

Washing an infected ear piercing with saline or sea salt solution is a simple home remedy.

If required, you could also use antibacterial soap to clean the wounds.

Washing the wounds with an alcohol solution is good but not recommended for newly pierced ears.

While cleaning the ear, use a cotton ball soaked in the particular solution (sea salt water, saline solution, or alcohol-based cleanser) you have just prepared to use and gently swab the inner and upper earlobes.

Try to remove the pus formation in the infected area thoroughly; dirt or dust must not be found near the affected areas of the ear.

Ear Piercing Safety Precautions

The chances of infection are very high with a fresh ear piercing. Here are a few precautions you should follow before getting a new ear piercing for yourself or your children.

Go to a board-certified dermatologist or an experienced ear piercing expert for getting your ears pierced.

Use the best ear-piercing equipment that hurts the ears the least and avoids tearing earlobes. Specially designed, advanced piercing instruments do not cause pain while piercing.

Get the ear-piercing done at a reputed studio that is registered with and certified by the statutory health authorities of your area or state.

It is necessary to ensure that the piercer uses standard equipment that is well-sterilized and cleaned thoroughly.

The equipment used for piercing should be made of non-allergic metals like surgical steel, gold, or titanium. Never use nickel-made piercing instruments or jewelry.

After piercing the ear, do not remove the post or studs from the fresh-cut tunnel for six weeks or until the wound is healed and the tunnel has stabilized.

Do not wear any heavy or tight jewelry until the piercing wound is fully healed and the opening is firmly set.

After cleansing the wound twice or three times a day, gently rotate the tunnel posts a few times until the process is complete (usually six weeks).

The infections are higher when the ears of infants are pierced. It is mainly because the baby constantly fidgets with the piercings, which might hurt the wounds and cause infection. It is better to pierce children’s ears after the age of 4.


Infection after the first year of piercing is common, especially after the new piercing. Immediately after you learn about the infection, you should see a doctor or a piercing expert to treat a piercing issue.

Do not try to treat the infection at home, as none of us want to cause severe damage or disfiguration to the earlobes.

Infection from ear piercings can be avoided by not touching the wounds and cleaning them regularly. Avoid doing anything that might aggravate the infections.

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