An infected ear piercing can develop years after a person got the original piercing. Cartilage piercings usually take longer to heal, making it more susceptible to infection than earlobe piercings. Infections may still occur even when a person follows the aftercare instructions.
The infections are usually minor, and people can treat them at home without complications. The piercing can get infected if it is touched regularly with dirty hands. Also, earrings that are too tight may not allow the wound to breathe and heal.
Symptoms of an infected ear piercing include:
- yellow discharge
Some infections can be treated with simple home remedies or may require antibiotics. Hospitalization is uncommon but may happen if a person has a severe infection in a cartilage piercing.
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To care for minor infections, a person can take these steps:
- Wash hands properly before touching, cleaning, or handling the earring.
- Clean the site of piercing with sterile saline or distilled water combined with salt thrice daily.
- Most doctors warn against using alcohol, antibiotic ointments, or hydrogen peroxide, as they can irritate the skin and slow healing.
- Do not remove the earring because it may allow the hole to close and trap the infection.
- Always clean both sides of the earlobe and pat dry with a clean paper towel.
Consult a doctor for treatment if:
- the infection does not improve within a few days
- fever goes with the infection
- the infection spreads
- the earring does not move
- the earring becomes implanted in the skin
When to remove a piercing
It may not be advisable to remove the earring if a new piercing is infected, because it can allow the wound to close, trapping the infection within the skin. Once the wound has healed properly, usually after 2 to 3 months, a person can safely remove an earring.