After months of contemplation, you finally gave in and have settled on two more new ear piercings. You feel good about this decision, and you cannot wait to rock all the different types of earrings you already bought. However, one morning you wake up with pain in one ear, and from the reddening and warmth radiating from one of the piercings, you suspect an infection. Expecting it to subside, you clean it as directed, but then it turns out that the infection has spread down to your neck. What do you do then?
First things first – a warning regarding ear infections!
If you have an infection of a cartilage ear piercing, there is a high risk of this infection spreading quite rapidly, not just to the rest of the ear but also down the neck. In worst cases, these infections can cause permanent disfigurement of your ear. This often happens because most of the infections that start from the cartilage tend to spread quite fast, and in most cases, you don’t realize just how bad the infection is until you’re in extreme pain and discomfort, and maybe in the ER.
As sad and depressing as this can be, something you should know about the infection of ear piercings is that even with the best, most meticulous level of care, cartilage piercings often get infected at a rate of about 30%, in comparison to a potential infection rate of 20% for other kinds of ear infections.
If the ear infection is caught early, then it will be treated easily – this happens where there is no pus draining from the piercing or if there is no hard pocket of pus formed in the infected ear calling for the draining of the abscess. In such cases, the infected abscess is drained, piercing cleaned, and you will be sent home with oral antibiotics. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
How to deal with ear-piercing infection spread to the neck
In case of severe infections, think pus and abscesses and the spread of the infection to the neck; for example, you’ll have to take a more cautious and urgent approach to deal with the problem.
It’s important to know that most of these ear infections result from the breeding of a specific kind of bacteria known as the Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These infections can only be controlled and treated using the most effective antibiotics like levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin – the other antibiotics you may be thinking about like Keflex, Augmentin, or Amoxicillin will not work because they don’t fight infections caused by the pseudomonas bacteria.
With severe ear infections that appear to have spread to the neck, the smartest thing you could do is to go to the ER. There, the abscess will be drained, and the pus draining from the ear piercing washed out. This is often considered a medical emergency, and you may be admitted to the hospital because you’d need the relevant antibiotics that are to be administered intravenously. In extreme scenarios, surgery might be recommended. Note that whatever is recommended by the ER doctors is meant to save your life and ear – waiting too long with severe ear piercing infections might result in permanent hearing and cartilage loss, and what you don’t want – the worst possible cosmetic outcome.
Seeking medical attention also ensures that the infection is stopped from spreading any further. The spread to your neck means a high risk of getting hospitalized, and you really should seek immediate medical attention.
While sea salt soaks and warm compresses feel like other things you could do to control or possibly treat the infection, you should know that the moment the infection spreads, and it’s just too painful, or you’re running a fever, it often means that the infection is beyond the common home remedies, and you should seek immediate medical attention instead. Home remedies might not worse things.
How to avoid happening again?
There are times when you will do everything right/ perfectly, but you’ll still have to suffer from one of the worst possible forms of ear infections. But it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the after-care instructions provided. You will agree with us that prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure. So, the recommendations below will come in handy in preventing ear piercing infections in the first place or protecting you from a repeat of this inglorious event.
Here are some of the things you should do to prevent the ear infection from recurring:
- Get your ears pierced by a professional; never have ear piercings done at home unless it’s done by a professional.
- Ask your piercer for the best or the most effective infection prevention protocol. You should mention your past experience before getting the piercing because this allows the professional to gauge the suitability of the new piercing you are in for and if you should have the piercing in that part of the ear.
- After getting a new piercing, clean the pierced ears twice each day using the ear-piercing cleanser or rinse given by the piercer. Alternatively, you could use a sterile saline solution to clean the ears.
- Don’t fall into the temptation to turn the jewelry in the new piercing, not until the piercing is fully healed. So, as you ask for advice about the care of the piercing, you should also inquire about the projected healing time for the piercing. Also, make Google your friend for the best advice on caring for the new piercing after fighting a previous infection.
- When cleaning, only clean around the piercing and the jewelry, without twisting or turning the jewelry or even removing it. Remember that you are trying to avoid causing trauma to the newly pierced skin or causing infections.
- Don’t play with your jewelry, regardless of how tempting it really is
- Seek medical attention as soon as you notice signs of an infection
The best way to deal with a spreading infection from ear piercings would be to seek immediate medical attention. You don’t want to suffer more under the guise of beauty.
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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.