What’s the worst that would happen if you had an ear infection? Are there more adverse effects that you should be aware of, other than the pain and the discomfort you are in currently, not to mention how you’d have to let that piercing seal off to heal?
With an infected ear piercing, it can be hard to know exactly what will happen, especially if you don’t get ahead of the infection early on. So, before we look at some of the ways that an ear piercing infection can hurt your health, let’s recap how an ear piercing infection would come about.
Although most new ear piercings heal well when the after-care instructions are followed, there are cases where the piercing gets infected. This often happens because a piercing is essentially an open wound, and if this open wound is infested by bacteria or if bacteria are allowed to fester, you will have an infection to deal with. It’s impossible to avoid bacteria – all the surfaces and the air we breathe have bacteria, which means that there will be some form of bacteria on the wound at any time.
The risk of this bacteria causing infections is, however, lowered significantly when the wound is cleaned with saline water, twice daily, until the wound heals. But if for whatever reason, the bacteria hide in the wounds and the moist wound turns into a breeding ground for the bacteria, the risk of infection can be quite high. In addition to the pus and the small, that tells you to have an infection; you may suffer more adverse reactions if you don’t get the problem handled on time.
The risk of infection could also be increased by touching the healing wound with dirty hands or if infected or dirty instruments were used during piercing. And in other cases, wearing the earrings too tightly and not allowing the piercing space to breathe and subsequently heal will increase the risk of infection. Other risk factors include rough earring posts or too much handling of the piercing.
Piercing Infections Symptoms
Ear piercing infections are quite common, especially for people with daith piercings, because such piercings are constantly exposed to bacteria from your phone, hair, hats, hands, etc. Note that the Daith piercings involve the puncture of the cartilage tissue right outside your ear canal, where the tissue is not only denser but also thicker, compared to the cartilage on the lobe and the outer edges of your ear.
Daith piercings are also problematic because of the reduced blood flow to this part of the ear, which translates to longer healing times – this is why daith piercings often take 4-12 months for complete healing. The risk of infections tends to be quite high during this period.
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
- Extreme pain and sensitivity when the pierced area is touched
- The tissue around the piercing feels hot or warm
- Brown, green, or yellow pus-like discharge
- Swelling around the piercing area
- An unusual smell from the piercing/ pierced ear
- Body aches
- A fever of or above 101degrees Fahrenheit
Can ear piercing infections cause headaches?
Although headaches are an uncommon side effect associated with an infected ear piercing, you may get a headache if your daith ear piercing is infected.
It’s also worth noting that although headaches are not a common side effect associated with infected ear piercings, there hasn’t been a lot of research done about this, which means that there is a big possibility that wearing jewelry in an infected ear piercing or just having an infected ear piercing would cause a headache.
Ear piercing infections Treatment
If your ear piercing is infected, says the Daith piercing, or if you suspect an infection, you need to act fast to prevent further spread of the infection, discomfort and to reduce the risk of complications.
That said, never attempt to drain the pus or the fluids leaking from that infected piercing – this would only make things worse. And in case of a severe infection, consider seeing your doctor, where you will be prescribed the right antibiotics help in clearing the infection.
If the infection is mild, consider the following solutions:
- Clean the infected piercing and the surrounding area
The first line of defense against the spread of the infection is cleaning the pierced area. You can either use a saline bath, the cleanser recommended by the piercer, or formulated soap specifically for your sensitive skin. NEVER use alcohol-based cleaners or hydrogen peroxide.
Also, you have to clean the entire area around the new ear piercing and directly outside the ear canal. Make use of clean gauze or cloth to dab the cleaned area dry. Repeat these steps thrice daily.
- Warm Compresses and Sea Salt Soaks
For proper draining of the infected piercing, use a warm compress. This will also reduce the swelling and relieve the pain. Alternatively, you may want to soak the infected area using a warm salt solution.
Using a warm compress
- Fill up your cloth-based product like a clean sock with oats, rice, or beans. Then seal this compress (sock) tightly, making sure that none of its contents spills.
- Microwave the sealed compress for about 30 seconds
- To use the compress, place a clean cloth or any other barrier between the heated compress and your infected ear, then alloy the compress to sit on the ear for about 20 minutes.
- Repeat the compression twice daily.
You could also make use of a wet washcloth in place of the sock with grains. Just microwave this washcloth for about 30 seconds, then apply it to the infected ear for about 20 minutes.
Using a Sea Salt Soak
- If you choose this option, you’ll need about ¼ a tablespoon of saline mixture or salt to be mixed with about 8 ounces of warm and distilled water. You can do this in a small bowl or cup that’s just the right size for your ear. So, just dip your ear in this salty solution for some minutes, then repeat this process a few other times during the day. Replace the solution, though.
- After soaking, clean and dab dry the infected area using a clean gauze or cloth. Dry the rest of the ear too.
- Do this three times a day until the ear infection is cleared up
NOTE: Though tempting, you shouldn’t use over-the-counter creams or antibiotics.
And you must see a doctor when the symptoms worsen.
Ear piercing infections Prevention
- Follow the aftercare instructions by the piercer to the latter, and consult them if something feels off.
- Keep the original/ piercing jewelry until the piercing heals – often a number of months from the day you got the piercing.
- Don’t touch the piercing site unless cleaning or changing the jewelry (for healed piercings)
- Wash your hair less frequently – once daily or every other day, and only use a very gentle shampoo.
- Dab the piercing site using a clean cloth after every bath or shower
- Cover up the piercing area when spraying your hair or face, and don’t apply any makeup on the areas around the piercing
- Clean your phone screen thoroughly every day. Same with your earbuds, headphones, and earmuffs
- Changes pillowcases once weekly
A badly infected ear piercing will cause headaches, which means that although headaches are not a common side effect of an ear infection, there is a real possibility of you suffering headaches from ear infections.
Read more piercing tips here or here!
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.