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Pierced-Ear Infection

Swelling and tenderness of a pierced earlobe is often due to an infection. The possible causes for this infection include:

  • Frequent touching of the earlobes with dirty hands

  • Ear-piercing equipment was not sterile

  • Posts were not sterile

  • Posts are too short or the clasp is pressed on too tightly

  • Posts are rough and cause irritation of the pierced channel

Mild infections can be treated with the home-care measures described below.  More serious infections may require oral antibiotics.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your wound at home:

  1. Wash your hands before touching the ears.

  2. Remove the posts three times a day. Each time, clean the infected earlobe with rubbing alcohol using a cotton-tip applicator.

  3. Apply antibiotic ointment to the post and reinsert it. Continue this three times a day for two days after swelling, redness, and drainage disappear.

  4. Once the infection clears, posts should be left in for six weeks.

  5. You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.

  6. Finish any antibiotics that were prescribed.

Preventing future infections

  1. Use only 14-karat gold or stainless steel posts.

  2. Do not touch the earrings except when putting them on or taking them off.

  3. Clean the earrings, posts, and earlobe with rubbing alcohol before each insertion.

  4. Apply the clasp loosely to allow space on either side of the earlobe.

  5. After you have worn the earrings for at least six weeks, remove the earrings at bedtime each night. This allows the pierced channel to be exposed to air for part of each day.

  6. Avoid nickel posts, which can cause an allergic reaction with itching and swelling. This can lead to an infection.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor as advised by our staff.

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Increased swelling, redness of the earlobe

  • Redness and swelling do not start to improve after two days of treatment

  • Fluid draining from the earlobe

  • Inability to see the front or back side of the earrings due to swelling

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C) for more than two days after starting treatment