How Do I Treat an Infected Ear Piercing?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Images By: Schlierner, Agephotography, Fly_Dragonfly, Athomass, Piotr Marcinski, Olly, Ocskay Bence, 07Photo, n/a
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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An infected ear piercing can be painful and can become extremely problematic if not treated correctly and promptly. If you suspect an infection, the area should be gently but thoroughly washed with a mild antibacterial soap and soaked with a warm saline solution. An over-the-counter antibacterial ointment should also be applied. If the infected piercing does not improve within three days, gets worse, or if you begin to run a fever, you should see your doctor immediately. Sometimes, an infection in the ear requires prescription antibiotics.

When washing an infected ear piercing, make sure you use a mild antibacterial hand soap. Before washing, carefully remove the earring, and using a soft cloth or tissue, squeeze the area slightly to clear away any puss or discharge that might be present. Work up a good lather on a soft washcloth, and gently clean the area, rinsing it thoroughly when done. This should be done twice a day.

Once the area has been cleaned, it should be soaked with a warm saline solution made up of 1/8 of a teaspoon (about 0.03 ml) of plain salt and one cup (about 237 ml) of warm water. Do not use iodized table salt as the iodine will irritate the area. Sea salt is a good choice. Saturate a cotton ball with the solution, and hold it against the infected area until the warmth fades, then repeat. You should do this for about 15 minutes, twice a day.


Once you have washed and soaked the infected ear piercing, using a cotton swap, apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment to the area. Wash the earring itself with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Rinse it thoroughly, apply a little antibacterial ointment to the post, and reinsert the earring. This might not feel very comfortable, but it is important to keep an earring in so that the hole does not close up and trap the infection inside the ear. To avoid further irritation or an allergic reaction, your earring should have a post made of 24-carat gold, silver, or surgical steel, and avoid earrings that contain nickel.

Don't put alcohol or peroxide directly on the area of the infection as these chemicals are harsh and can cause further irritation. Try to avoid itching or playing with the infected area because doing so could spread the infection. Until the infection clears up, over-the-counter pain relievers can be taken to ease any discomfort you’re experiencing. If the infected ear piercing has not improved within three days or appears to be getting worse, you should see your doctor. Also, if you begin to run a fever, you should see your doctor right away.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

I had an infected piercing last year and didn't do anything about it. It got so bad that I eventually had to take oral antibiotics to treat it.

Post 3

@ankara-- Is the piercing continuing to leak pus? Does the pus have a yellow or greenish color?

It might be infected. Have you been doing the saline soaks? Start doing them right away if you haven't been. Also apply antibiotic cream on it but keep the earrings in your ears to prevent them from closing up.

It's actually normal to get some clear colored pus in your piercing when the earrings are out because the ear is trying to heal and close up the hole. But if the pus is excessive or has an odd color, these are symptoms of an ear piercing infection.

Post 1

I'm not sure if I have an ear piercing infection or not. I had an earring in there for a few weeks. I took out the earring for just two days and when I tried putting the earrings back in, there was a piece of what looked like hardened pus at the piercing site. It also had a foul smell.

What should I do?

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