The best way to treat a swollen ear lobe depends on what's causing the swelling. Inflammation caused by piercings or insect stings can generally be brought down with certain household items and Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications, while more serious conditions like infections or boils may need prescription medication. If your ear is very painful or doesn't get better after a few days, you should seek medical attention to prevent the possibility of a permanent deformity or deafness.
Swelling caused by a bite or sting on the ear lobe from an insect or spider can usually be treated at home. You should first wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water, and then apply an antiseptic, like hydrogen peroxide. After this, apply a cold compress to the ear as needed, and take painkillers to deal with any discomfort. If the ear is very inflamed, then you may need to take an antihistamine as well.
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Having some swelling is normal after getting a piercing, especially if you sleep on your newly pierced ear, but you can reduce it by keeping pressure off of the ear. You should also keep the ear clean, and use salt-water compresses to prevent infection. If your ear lobe is painful, you can take OTC pain relievers and use a numbing gel or spray.
Infections and Boils
Several different infections can cause a swollen ear lobe, including an infected piercing, an ear infection, and boils or cysts. If this is the case, then your ear will generally be red and inflamed, and may leak pus or other fluids. You may also have pain in your inner ear and a fever. To treat swelling caused by an infection or a boil or cyst, you'll generally need to see a healthcare professional to get antibiotics to take care of the infection or have him or her remove the boil. You should not try to drain a boil or cyst by yourself, since you could cause it to burst and spread infectious material throughout your ear.
Trauma caused by a direct blow is one of the most common causes of a swollen ear lobe, especially in people who play contact sports. To treat this kind of injury, ice the ear with an icepack or plastic bag of ice wrapped in a towel and take OTC painkillers. If the ear is very swollen, red, purple, or white, then you should see a healthcare professional immediately, since this could lead to a permanent deformity called cauliflower ear or a loss of hearing.
You may also get a swollen ear lobe because of an allergic reaction to something that touches your ear, like a soap, shampoo, or an earring. In this case, the best treatment is to remove the source of the allergy — for instance, if you are allergic to nickel then you should take out any earrings containing it — and then treat the symptoms with cold compresses and OTC painkillers. This should reduce the swelling within a few days, but if it doesn't, then you should see a healthcare professional for a prescription for antihistamine.
Though you can't prevent all the things that can cause swelling, you can often avoid a swollen ear lobe by only wearing jewelry that's made with precious metals, like gold or silver. You should also only get piercings from reputable places that use sterile equipment, and clean your earrings regularly. If you play contact sports, wearing a helmet or earguard while playing can help prevent trauma-related problems.