How to Treat Ear Piercing Infections and When to Worry (2023)

Aug 25, 2023

Ear Piercings

Written By Dr. Jill Grimes
Thread Health Doctor and College Health Expert


Ear piercing infections are a common issue for teens and young adults. Knowing how to treat these infections and when to seek medical attention is essential for maintaining overall health and avoiding complications. This blog aims to provide guidance on managing ear piercing infections, focusing on the different types of infections and their appropriate treatments, as well as prevention strategies.

Ear Piercing Infections: The Basics

Ear piercing infections are quite common in teens and young adults, with about 20% of lobe piercings and 30% of cartilage piercings getting infected. Understanding the differences between lobe and cartilage piercings and their respective infections is crucial in determining the appropriate course of action.

Lobe infections are generally not a significant concern and can often be treated at home with proper care and cleansing. On the other hand, cartilage infections are more severe and may require medical attention. The cartilage's poor blood supply makes infections in this area difficult to heal, and treatment may include oral antibiotics or even hospitalization in some cases.

Various factors contribute to ear piercing infections, such as improper aftercare, contact with bacteria, and allergic reactions to the jewelry material. Being aware of these causes can help prevent infections and ensure a smoother healing process for newly pierced ears.

How to Treat Lobe Infections at Home

If you are dealing with a lobe infection, there are several steps you can take at home to promote healing and prevent complications. First, when cleaning the infected piercing, avoid using peroxide or alcohol, as these substances can slow down the healing process. Instead, use sterile saline on a piece of gauze or a cotton ball, and gently clean around the area multiple times a day.

Whether to leave the earring in or remove it depends on the age of the piercing. For new piercings, it is best to leave the earring in, as removing it may cause the hole to close and trap the infection. For older piercings, removing the earring can help speed up the healing process.

While lobe infections can often be treated at home, it is essential to recognize when to seek medical attention. If you experience fever, increased pain or tenderness, or redness around the piercing, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional to ensure proper care and treatment.

How to Treat Cartilage Infections

Cartilage infections are more severe than lobe infections and often require medical attention. Due to the cartilage's poor blood supply, these infections can be difficult to heal, making it crucial to seek professional help when dealing with a cartilage infection.

Potential treatments for cartilage infections include oral antibiotics, which can help combat the infection and promote healing. In more severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be necessary to ensure the infection is properly treated and managed.

While undergoing treatment for a cartilage infection, it is essential to follow your healthcare provider's advice and take necessary precautions to prevent complications. This may include regularly cleaning the infected area, avoiding irritating the piercing, and monitoring for any signs of worsening infection or other concerns. By seeking medical attention and taking appropriate steps, you can effectively treat cartilage infections and maintain your overall health.

What Not to Do When Treating Ear Piercing Infections

While treating ear piercing infections, it is essential to avoid actions that may worsen the condition or cause further complications. One common mistake is using over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointments, which can pose a risk of contact allergy from neomycin. This allergic reaction may exacerbate symptoms and delay the healing process.

Another practice to avoid is using alcohol directly on the piercing itself. Alcohol can slow down the healing process and irritate the infection. Instead, use alcohol to clean the earring, acting as an antiseptic to minimize the risk of further infection. By following proper care guidelines and avoiding these common mistakes, you can help promote healing and prevent complications from ear piercing infections.

Preventing Ear Piercing Infections

Maintaining proper care for your piercings is crucial in preventing infections and ensuring a smooth healing process. To keep your piercings clean and healthy, follow these essential tips:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your piercings.

  • Use a saline solution to clean your piercings daily, especially during the initial healing period.

  • Avoid touching or twisting your piercings unnecessarily.

  • Keep the area around your piercings clean and dry.

  • Change your pillowcase regularly to reduce exposure to bacteria.

Additionally, regular earring cleaning plays a significant role in preventing infections. Clean your earrings with alcohol or a saline solution at least once a week to remove dirt and bacteria. By following these guidelines and prioritizing proper care, you can significantly reduce the risk of ear piercing infections and maintain your overall health.


In summary, ear piercing infections are common among teens and young adults, with lobe infections being generally mild and treatable at home, while cartilage infections require medical attention. Proper care, including cleaning with saline solution and avoiding harmful substances like alcohol and over-the-counter ointments, is crucial for successful treatment and prevention of infections.

It is essential to seek medical attention when necessary, especially for cartilage infections or if symptoms worsen. By prioritizing proper ear piercing care and being aware of the signs indicating the need for professional help, teens and young adults can maintain their overall health and enjoy their piercings without complications. Remember, the key to a positive ear piercing experience lies in diligent care and attention to your body's signals.

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