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Ear Piercing Infection Symptoms, Treatments on Baby, Old, Cleaning and Pictures

If you are intending to have piercings on your ears, you need to ensure it is done carefully to avoid instances of infected ear piercing. Pierced ear infection is a common problem that affects mostly children and teenagers although it can also affect older people. 

In summary

  • My ear piercing is infected, why?
  • What are some of the signs and symptoms of pierced ear infection
  • How do you heal an infected ear piercing, or treat it?
  • How do you clean infected ear piercing
  • Dealing with new, baby and old infected piercings on your ears

Although most people take it lightly, it is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Do you remember the dailymail.co.uk coverage in 2013, on a school girl, Destiny Nickson, 11 years old, who was forced to miss school due to a seriously infected piercing on her ears. Antibiotics did not work, she had to be admitted, stitched up and scarring might be part of her life forever.

Ear Piercing Infection Symptoms, Treatments on Baby, Old, Cleaning, Pictures, Causes of Earlobe Piercings
Ear Piercing Infection Symptoms, Treatments on Baby, Old, Cleaning, Pictures, Causes of Earlobe Piercings

Ear Piercing Infection Symptoms and signs

A valid question you could ask is “how do you know when your ear piercing is infected?” The answer is simple, check out on the symptoms i.e. you are certainly going to know you have such an infection by looking at some of the pierced ear infection symptoms that can never miss. Some the common signs and symptoms to check for include:

  • Tenderness on the pierced site, kids might complain of this tenderness.
  • Swelling around the piercing site that persist 48 hours after a new piercing.
  • Infected ear piercing bleeding in extreme cases, especially for new piercings.
  • Discharges from the piercing that include pus that might be yellow or your piercing might “secrete thick, green, smelly pus” [livestrong.com].
  • A bump on earlobes that could be white or red.
  • Fever especially in children
  • Stuck earrings i.e. you will be unable to rotate them.

These are not the only infected ear lobe piercing signs or symptoms you might have. There are many others to check out for. By the way, your ears are very important. The moment you notice anything abnormal with your piercings, do not ignore them. Do not be like most people who tend to waiting until “infected ear piercing pus” starts oozing out before they begin looking for pierced ears infection treatment options.

Other pierced ear signs and symptoms that are less common include scarring, nausea, boils, over cleaning psychological problem among others.

Infected ear piercings pictures, image and photos

To help you visually how piercings that infected look like, we have included a few photos in this post as well as the ones below.

Infected piercing on the earlobe that has discharge
Infected piercing on the earlobe that has discharge
Ear piercing infection
Ear piercing infection

You have seen  the above photos, we hope they will help you in knowing if you truly have an infection on your ears you recently pierced or even if you pierced them long time ago.

Causes of pierced ear infections

While looking at what could be behind the infections on piercing, we will take into consideration two aspects, i.e. we will look at causes on a new as well as an old ear piercing infection.

A. New ear piercing infection causes

This section covers the common causes of infections on a fresh or new piercing. In terms of timelines, “in most cases, the infection will appear a few days after the piercing” [aboutkidshealth.ca] and you will experience some of the symptoms we have already mentioned above.

Some of the common causes of new piercing infection, in both children and adults, include the following:

  • Using piercing equipment that are not sterilized
  • Inserting unsterile posts [childrenshealthnetwork.org]
  • Touching the piercing site or the area around your ears with dirty hands.
  • Wearing tight earrings especially when either the clasp closes tightly or they have short post. This affects normal blood flow on your earlobe making you vulnerable to infections.
  • Bad quality earrings (inexpensive) e.g the ones that have a rough post tend to scratch your piercing channel or hole as you wear them. This might make you end up with an infected earring hole as well as other general infections.
  • Inserting your earrings to a new piercing without a mirror might make it get hurt as it is still recovering.
  • Allergic reactions to the materials of the posts especially nickel which is known to cause allergic reactions as well as an itchy feeling.
  • Injuries causes by earrings especially if inserted at a wrong angle by kids.

Prevention of new pierced ear infection

For new piercings, here are some tips that can be very important in ensuring you do not catch an infection in the first place.

  • Do not touch your piercing with dirty hands.
  • Always go to a professional who uses sterilized equipment. Doing it locally at home assisted by your friends who might not understand the need for sterilized equipment is a major cause of infections.
  • Use 14-carat initial post. It should either be stainless still or gold if you can afford gold. However, stainless still will still work well i.e. “For optimal results, Dr. Barton D. Schmitt recommends that earrings are made out of 14-carat gold or stainless steel, and that the posts are inserted loosely, not tight against the ear” [everydayfamily.com]
  • Avoid removing the host from your channel until six weeks are gone. According to American Academy of Dermatologists,  it is advisable to “leave the earrings in your ears for six weeks or more – even at night. Removing the starter earrings too early may cause the piercings to close”
  • When clasping your earrings, they should be loosely held.
  • Avoid using rubbing alcohol when cleaning your earlobes as it interferes with healing process. Go for any antiseptic that has benzalkonium chloride. Do this two times a day for the next 6 weeks.
  • Ensure you rotate your posts at least thrice after the cleaning process is complete.
  • Avoid swimming in a lake for the first two weeks since lakes are likely to have a lot of bacteria that can cause infections i.e. “swimming in a lake or ocean, which might contain unknown bacteria, for those two week” [parents.com]

If you religiously follow the above tips for 6 weeks, your piercing healing will be complete, and you will be free to change your earrings as often as you want. However, this does not mean you cannot get infected again. Our next part will cover ways how you to avoid old ear piercing infection.

B. Old ear piercing infection causes

Sometimes, you can end up with an infected ear piercing years later, after your piercings have healed. This is what is commonly known as old ear piercings infections. Their causes are similar to the above with the only exception being causes that are related to the process of piercing. Even if the piercings have completely healed, poor hygiene, bad earrings, allergic reactions to some materials used in making your earring can still result to infected ear piercings after years, from the time you had the piercing process.

Prevention of old ear piercing infection

For those who have been complaining about old pierced ear infection or having an infection, year after the piercing was done, here are some of the important tips that can ensure you do not get this problem.

  • Avoid touching your piercings with dirty hands. It is a good idea not to develop the habit of touch them unless you are cleaning them. Still, clean your hands first.
  • Always remove your earrings when you go to bed to avoid them being caught by your bedding. More importantly to allow fresh air circulation. This can help in reducing  infected earring hole or channel. However, this should not be done on a fresh piercing.
  • Always clean your posts, earrings and earlobes using rubbing alcohol.
  • Ensure your mobile phones are telephones are clean since they too can host a lot of germs that might be behind your constant infections on your earlobe piercings.
  • Ensure any rough parts of your ear jewelry are polished or throw them away.
  • Your earring clasps should be loosely attached to give room for free air circulation as well as avoid pressure on your earlobes.
  • Avoid earrings that dangle since they can easily tear your earlobe which always requires cosmetic surgery to fix it.
  • Do not wear any ear jewelry when washing hair, dancing, during sports, or if you deal with small kids as they will tend to touch or pull them.

These are some of the great ways to avoid pierced ears infection after years.

Baby ear piercing infection, children toddler or infants

The signs of baby, toddler or infant ear piercing infection are just the normal symptoms you will notice on anyone else who has an infection in their piercings. As we already have mentioned, you might see some “tenderness, a yellow discharge, redness, and some swelling” [childrenshealthnetwork.org].

Since children are young and it is impossible to stop them from touching the piercing, some of the important tips to avoid chances of a baby ear piercing infection include the following:

  • Pierce your child’s ears after she or he is at least 4 years or older. Younger babies will tend to fidget with the piercings, remove them, and worse even swallow them. The ideal age is when the child is old enough to decide if they want the piercing or not.
  • If your child often bleeds easily, do not pierce them since this can “form thick scars (keloids), or get staph skin infections” [childrenshealthnetwork.org].

How to treat an infected ear piercing – treatments, remedies and healing

You now know the causes, signs of infected ear piercing, as well as some ways to prevent this problem for old, new and baby ear piercings. It is time to look at some of the ways on how to treat infected ear piercing. This are for people who already known they have infections.

1. Rubbing Alcohol

Weather it is an adult or toddler ear piercing infection you are treating, rubbing alcohol is good for keeping infection at bay. Rubbing it on either sides of earlobes twice a day will be a good home remedy that can actually treat this infection. Furthermore, you are expected to remove posts as well as earrings to clean them using rubbing alcohol three times a day. This can only be done if the piercing had initially healed completely.

2. Antibiotics for ear piercing infection such as neosprin

Another way to easily treat an infected ear piercing is by the use antibiotic for ear piercing infection. These are just over-the-counter or non-description ointments and tropical cream such as neosporin which you can apply on the earlobe as well as on the post after cleaning it with rubbing alcohol, before you can replace them back. When the infection seems cleared, you should continue using this antibiotic ointment for about two to three days.

If any oral antibiotics were prescribed by a doctor to help in treating ear piercing infection, ensure you complete your doses. Antibiotic tablets are often recommended in severe pierced ear infections.

3. Pain killers

If you have aching pain on your earlobe, it is advisable to always go for pain relieving medications. “Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed” [uofmmedicalcenter.org]. If you suffer from GI bleeding, stomach ulcers or any kidney or liver disease, talk to your doctor first before using these medications.

4. Sea salt or saline solution home remedy

An easy infected ear piercing home remedy you could try is washing it with saline solution or sea salt solution. “You dissolve about (1/4 teaspoon of sea salt per egg cup or shot glass of warm water)” [nhs.uk] and use it to clean in a similar way you did with rubbing alcohol.

If possible, when using this infected ears piercing remedy, you can submerge your whole lope into the saline solution you just prepare to ensure it gets into the piercing channel.

5. Anti-bacterial soaps

For mild cases, you can heal an infected ear piercing by washing the piercing site using an anti-bacterial soap. This method works best if it couple with any of the other treatments such as antibiotic ointments or rubbing alcohol after you are through with the cleaning part.

6. Warm compresses home remedy

To enhance blood flow to the affected area, it is recommended that you apply warm compresses on your earlobe for about 3 minutes, at least 3-4 times in a day. This will ensure increase blood flow to the affected site and will quicken the healing process.

7. Avoid hydrogen peroxide

There are sources that recommend the use of hydrogen peroxide to get rid infected ear piercings. We do not recommend its use since hydrogen peroxide not only kills any healing cells but also encourage crusting since it dries up the piercing site. Furthermore, using it might sting a lot.

How long does ear infection last

After treatment, if you follow proper care, you expect the piercing to be healed within a duration of 1-2 weeks.

How to treat ear piercing infection bump, cure, heal or get rid

Some people might suffer from ear infection bumps which are more common behind your earlobes i.e. bump behind ear.  Formation of bumps is more common for people who opt for cartilage piercing as opposed to earlobe piercing.

The reasons of having a bump are much or less the same as those of getting infected. When you get a bump after piercing, it could be a pointer that you have a “pathogen named staphylococcus aureus and pseudomnas aeruginosa” [mrdoctor.org] or other bacterial infection, which if ignored, will form a permanent deformation.

1. Use tea tree oil

The most effective way to treat ear piercing bump infection is to use tea tree oil. It works magic compared to other treatments and home remedies proposed such as aspirin, chamomile tea as so forth.

 2. Tropical antibiotic gels and creams

Gels and creams have also been noted as good in deal with bumps on any piercings in general.

Precaution: In case you notice a bump on your pierced ear site, it is good to see a doctor to ascertain that you are not developing keloid scars which do not have a surefire means of treating them since all methods used including surgery cannot guarantee a recurrence of the same.

How to clean infected ear piercing or cleaning ear piercing

We have looked at the various ear piercing infection treatment. Most of these treatments will ensure your piercing get healed fast. One more very important thing you need to know is how to clean an infected ear piercing.  However, cleaning is not an alternative to treatment.

To clarify, the steps we will cover here can also be used to clean piercings on your ears that are still new.

  • Thoroughly wash your hands before you touch any site of your piercing, whether infected or not.
  • Prepare a sea salt solution by mixing an adequate amount of sea salt, about 2 teaspoon in warm water. If you have a serious infection, you can use rubbing alcohol in cleaning your earlobes or any other pierced ears solution you might have been given.
  • Using a cotton ball soaked with the solution you just prepared, slowly and gently wash the upper and inner side of your earlobes. A little twisting, back and forth movements will do well.
  • To ensure you clean the area as close to your piercing site as possible. It is advisable to use an ear bud toclean as close to the piercing site as possible.
  • Rotate your posts at least three times after you have finished cleaning your pierced ear.

These simple steps of cleaning pierced ear, especially when it is infected, have proven to be very important to many people.

Severe ear piercing infection – When to see a doctor

If you are suffering from severe ear piercings infection, it is always advisable to see a doctor. Furthermore, if your clasp gets embedded on your earlobes (and you are not able to get them off), your swelling and reddening goes beyond the piercing  site, you have a fever or you do not see any improvement, ensure you see a doctor for further treatment.

Furthermore, it is good to see a doctor if your infected piercing begins to bleed.

Note: If you have an ear cartilage piercing infection, or any infection if you have a piercing on your upper ear, will comprehensively cover it under cartilage piercings in our next post.

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References and sources

About charlene

24 comments

  1. Wow nice help

  2. wow now i know that my new pierce is not infected

  3. Thanks now I know my ear piercing is not infected.

  4. I got 4 piercings in the one ear 4 days ago… I had to take the back off 2 they are so swollen. My neck is hurting at the stage… I have a steroid cream and tea tree oil I am applying alot… I woke last night with the pain. It looks like just 1 of them is the problem but it is so sore. My jaw hurts. Any recommendations?

    • Are you lymph nodes beneath your ear and on your neck swollen? If so, it is a sign of infection.Secondly, taking the jewelry off is not recommended since it aids in draining and healing.

    • I don’t know if this will still be of help, but if you ever have a problem like that, the best thing would be to try and go back to the place you got your piercings. They should be a big help in advising you about what to do, and if it’s serious enough to go see a doctor.

  5. This is very important so someone please reply: its been almost a month after my new ear piercing. I am between 13-14 years old. My ears did not bother much except some itching invthe beginning. Now, almost a month later there is a small bump on the back, that is white and it hurts but only sometimes. I can rotate the earring well and its only behind one ear. I have been eating carefully after the piercing and everything was fine but this bump is worrying. Should i be concerned?

  6. So I got a new piercing (my cartilage) done a few weeks ago. About three or four to be exact and I took it off today because there’s a bump surrounding the piercing. It started bleeding the moment I took it out but I dont know if its because I took the earring out too early or something. Is my ear infected?

  7. So, I got my second ear pierce about a month and a half ago. I think I was leaning my head too much on my ear, and then it became swollen. Over the night, it became less swollen but there is a really red circle around my ear pierce, which you can see if you lift the earring up a little. What is it? And how do I treat this?

  8. I go my second ear pierced about a month and a half ago, yesterday I think I was leaning my head too much on my hand which meant I put a lot of pressure on my ear, and it became swollen. Over the night, it was less swollen but if I still lift my earring, you can see a red circle around the ear pierce. What is that? And what do I do?

  9. Great article, just one thing, though. It is stainless STEEL, not stainless still.

  10. I have had my ears pierced for almost four years I am almost 13… They are infected with drying puss and puss leaking out and when the puss dries I have to twist my eating very hard to get it moved. I have to basically peel it off. I have lumps in my skin under my jawbone/earlobe on both sides and my right ear is more infected so the lump is as big as my thumbnail and the one on my led ear is pea sized. They hurt a lot and my ears are so nasty I put in stainless steel 10k gold plated small hoops. I also tried using “Clair’s ear care solution” I don’t think it worked… Any ideas? Please they are very gross and painful. The lumps hurt so much.

  11. I had my ears pierced a year ago and my ears are swollen and purple around the piercing. I don’t know what caused it but I ‘ve been trying to treat them for a long time but nothing seems to have worked. Do you know what could have caused it ?

    • If it does not get well, it could be n allergic reaction to the jewelry you are using. Kindly see doctor for examination and diagnosis. Thank you

  12. Nicole Collins

    I had bought a new pair of ear rings and sanitized it first before putting it in my ear. A couple days later my ear started hurting and it would really hurt when I took out my ear ring and sometimes bleed. Now a week later, I have a bump inside my ear and I cannot get rid of it. Any suggestions on how I could get rid of it?

  13. My ears just got pierced 3 months ago and its a huge hole in my right ear. Anyways, I got my earrings at stein mart. Any idea how this happened? How long will it last? how could I heal it? I’m almost 12 by the way.

    • Hello. Kindly go to a dermatologist to check if you got an infection or you are allergic to your earring jewelry.

  14. Comment:i just pierced my ear myself and i tried taking it off early and it was bleeding.I put it back coz i was afraid it might close.Now im suffering from minor pain and bleeding and White discharge and i cant twist my earrings anymore its stuck.. what do i do?should i wait for 6 weeks and try and remove it again?

  15. Hi may how was your ear pierced? Is it healed?

  16. its been 1 month .still m having ear bump. i did 2 piercing only on 1 side m having bump .can someone suggest wat to wear n to do

  17. My 4 year old granddaughter got her ears pierced for the 1st time.And it’s been less than 6 weeks ago. She has a knot or it just feels hard to one ear and red and sore. Her mom doctored it but left the earring out over night. Can her ear close up and what is the best way to doctor it? Oh and she says it hurts. What to do? Should we put the earring back in and try doctoring it while in? And how long does it take to close up?

  18. Hi
    My niece got her ear piercing done recently. But it got infected and she is having a lot of trouble. I never knew about tips to get rid of infected ear piercing. Rubbing alcohol over ear piercing is completely new to me. Thanks for the information.

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