How to Recognize and Treat an Infected Ear Piercing

How to Recognize and Treat an Infected Ear Piercing

Let’s face it, no matter how careful we are, infections can happen. They even happen in sterile environments such as hospital rooms. Bacteria are everywhere, from the surfaces we touch to floating around on airborne particles.

There’s a risk with almost any type of body modification that involves puncturing or piercing the skin. But these risks are usually small, especially as it relates to ear piercings, and most issues are avoidable with proper preventative care.

That said, understanding how to recognize the signs of infection early, understanding self-treatment, and knowing when to go to a doctor are important things to know.

This guide will help you understand just that. If you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out. The team at Pierced is highly experienced in dealing with piercings and identifying infections that can be taken care of with self-care or that need to be looked at by a doctor.

Call or stop by our conveniently located piercing parlours in both Newmarket and Mississauga today. Whether you need help with an existing piercing or are looking for your next one, we’ve got you covered.

Preventative Measures

The first step is to do everything in your power to prevent an infection in the first place. Trust us when we say that the extra steps and precautions, while tedious, are well worth it. There is a reason your piercing professional provides you with “aftercare” instructions. Follow them to the letter and thank us later.

Be picky with your piercer.

Ask about the risk of infection and how they work to mitigate it. Your piercer should show you their hygiene practices. If they can’t show you a sealed pack of hollow-point needles or seem reluctant -- or if you just get a bad vibe -- get out.

Follow a practical aftercare guide.

You need to gently rinse your new piercing with the proper saline solution and clean up the area. If you don’t follow a routine when you clean your ears, you invite bacteria-- and they multiply fast. Keep in mind that a new ear piercing is basically an open wound, and it requires the same steady care.

Our Favourite Piercing Aftercare Products

Wash your hands.

Our hands get covered in bacteria every moment of the day, so we need to disinfect them before touching a vulnerable area such as a new piercing.

Tracing the cause or simply preventing infection can be difficult-- that’s OK. Infections are normal, we just want to try and make them less so.

Knowing the Signs of an Infected Ear Piercing

Brace yourself: piercings hurt. That’s perfectly normal, especially when getting a cartilage piercing. Your aftercare guide may recommend ibuprofen the day of your piercing to relieve any pain. If the pain continues to increase past a mild discomfort during your aftercare, then you may have an infection.
A bit of swelling around the piercing site is normal. If, however, your ear looks like it’s growing another head, seek medical care. If the swelling is hot to the touch, then it’s definitely an infection.
Noticing the pattern? A bit of redness is normal! If it gets redder instead of fading, and combines with the other symptoms, start treating.
Excess or Discolored Pus
New piercings often have a bit of clear or whitish discharge that crusts over as it dries. This discharge is part of the reason you need to keep on top of your aftercare; if any gets left behind, it will invite bacteria. Signs of a developing infection include if your pus turns a nasty colour or starts to reek.
If you develop a fever, make a doctor’s appointment or visit the urgent care centre immediately! Fevers are a systematic symptom, i.e. full-body. These indicate that the infection has spread beyond your ear and can no longer be treated at home.

If you’re concerned about your piercing, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t be afraid to seek the advice of your piercer or a medical doctor. Your piercer can’t treat an infection, but they can certainly recognize one!

Infected Ear Piercing


Minor infections can be treated at home, while more serious infections may need an antibiotic prescription. Many people will attempt treatment first and see if that helps before spending money to see a doctor.

You can use the below steps to attempt treating an infected ear piercing at home:

  • Wash your hands. You don’t want to invite new bacteria when trying to get rid of the infection.
  • Clean the piercing with either a sterile saline solution or a mix of one cup distilled water and one-fourth teaspoon of sea salt.
  • Use your fingers, a medicine dropper, or a Q-tip to apply the solution to the front and back of your piercing (make sure no fibres are left behind!)
  • Dry off the site, but don’t use bath towels! They carry germs and can leave behind fibres. Instead, use clean, dry, fresh paper towels.
  • Repeat twice daily, preferably once in the morning and once at night.

 Infected Ear Cartilage Piercing

What Not To Do with an Infected Ear Piercing

Under no circumstances should you use alcohol, antibiotic ointments, or hydrogen peroxide. These will hinder more than help with your healing process.

Avoid removing the earring unless instructed by your doctor. This risks your hole closing up and trapping the infection inside, with no release for the discharge.

When to Enlist a Doctor

  • If the infection doesn’t clear up after a few days
  • If you develop a fever
  • If the infection spreads
  • If your earring becomes embedded in your skin

Keep Calm and Carry On

The three main tenants of ear care are Don’t Panic, Clean Daily, and Wash Your Hands, Now that you know what to look for, you can monitor your ear piercing’s health and ensure that it completely heals with proper care.

Have further concerns about a piercing or looking forward to getting another? Reach out to us today or stop by one of our locations in either Newmarket or Mississauga. We’d love to find out how we can help.

Infected Piercing

Note: this article is meant for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. If you feel like your piercing has become infected please seek out advice from your physician who may suggest antibiotics.

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Working with an experienced piercer can make all the difference when it comes to your piercing experience. If you’re in the Mississauga, Ontario area and have any questions about ear piercing, body piercing or jewelry, give us a call or stop by our piercings studio today. We’d love to help walk you through what to expect and help you choose the right option.

Rethink piercings, rethink piercings, rethink piercings.

Rethink piercings, rethink piercings, rethink piercings.