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Ear Piercing and Symptoms

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Minor infection of pierced ear
  • Symptoms are pain, redness, crusting and swelling at the earring site
  • Spreading redness is more serious and needs to be seen

If NOT, try one of these:

Causes of Infections in Newly Pierced Ear

  • Piercing the ears with tools or earring posts that aren't clean (sterile)
  • Not cleaning the earlobes daily
  • Taking the earring out before the channel is healed (6 weeks)
  • Touching earrings with dirty hands
  • Earring backs that are too tight against the earlobe. Reason: pressure from tight earrings reduces blood flow to the earlobe.
  • Posts that have nickel in them can also cause an itchy, allergic reaction

Causes of Infections Later After the Pierced Ear has Healed

  • Not cleaning the earrings and posts daily
  • Touching earrings with dirty hands
  • Earring backs that are too tight against the earlobe. Reason: pressure from tight earrings reduces blood flow to the earlobe.
  • Not taking the earrings out at night
  • Anything that causes a scratch or tear in the ear channel. Examples are a heavy earring or a rough area on the post. Reason: any break in the skin can become infected.
  • Putting the post in at the wrong angle also can scratch the channel. Use a mirror until putting the earring in becomes routine.
  • Posts that have nickel in them can also cause an itchy, allergic reaction

Age For Piercing Ears

  • Parents often wonder what a good age is to have ear piercing done. It is best to wait until a child can play an active role. Most often, this is past age 8.
  • Children under 4 years may touch the earrings a lot. Playing with the earring with dirty hands can lead to infections.
  • Younger children also can get the earrings out and put them in their mouth. This can lead to swallowing or choking on them.

When to Call for Ear Piercing Symptoms

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Piercing of UPPER ear is red and swollen
  • Ear looks infected and also has fever
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Part of earring (or back) is stuck inside the earlobe
  • Redness has spread beyond the earring site
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Swollen lymph node (in front of or behind the earlobe)
  • Not improved after 3 days of home treatment
  • Itchy rash and wearing earrings that contain nickel
  • Large thick scar at the earring site
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Ear pierced in last 6 weeks and mild redness or crusting at piercing site
  • Ear pierced more than 6 weeks ago (healed) and mild redness or crusting at piercing site
  • Questions about prevention of infections in pierced ears

Care Advice

Minor Infection in Newly Pierced Ear in Last 6 Weeks

  • What You Should Know About Infections in Newly Pierced Ears:
    • Minor pierced ear infections can be treated at home.
    • With proper care, most will clear up in 1 to 2 weeks.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  • Treating New Pierced Ear Infections (during first 6 weeks):
    • Don't take out the earring! Clean the infected area 3 times a day.
    • Wash hands with soap and water before touching the ear or earring.
    • Use cotton swab ("Q-Tip") dipped in pierced ear solution (see #3 below).
    • Clean exposed earring (both sides). Also, clean the ear lobe.
    • Then turn the earring 3 times. Reason: To prevent the skin from sticking to the post.
  • Pierced Ear Solution:
    • Pierced ear solution was probably given to you when the ears were pierced.
    • If not, you can get it in most drug stores. No prescription needed.
    • It usually contains benzalkonium chloride which kills germs.
    • It doesn't sting like rubbing alcohol.
  • Antibiotic Ointment:
    • After cleaning, use an antibiotic ointment to the area (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. You can also use one you already have at home.
    • Do this after cleaning the earlobe and turning the earring. That means 3 times per day.
    • Keep doing this until drainage and redness are gone for 2 days.
  • What to Expect:
    • With proper care, most mild earlobe infections will clear up in 1 to 2 weeks.
    • It is common to have them come back without daily earring care.
  • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Ear not improved after 3 days
    • Infection not gone by 2 weeks
    • Fever occurs
    • Spreading redness occurs
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Minor Infection in Ear Pierced More Than 6 Weeks Ago and Healed

  • What You Should Know About Infections in Well-Healed Pierced Ears:
  • Clean Earring with Rubbing Alcohol:
    • Wash hands with soap and water.
    • Remove the earring from the ear.
    • Clean the earring and post with rubbing alcohol.
    • Do this 3 times per day.
  • Clean Earlobe with Rubbing Alcohol:
    • Then wash away any crusting from the earlobe with soap and water.
    • Use rubbing alcohol and some gauze to gently clean around the hole. Do this on both sides of the earlobe.
    • If the alcohol stings, use pierced ear solution instead.
  • Antibiotic Ointment:
    • After cleaning, apply an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin) to the earring post and the earlobe holes. No prescription is needed. You can also use one you already have at home.
    • Then put the earring back in.
    • Continue until drainage and redness are gone for 2 days.
  • What to Expect:
    • With proper care, most mild earlobe infections will clear up in 1 to 2 weeks.
    • It is common to have mild infections come back without daily earring care.
  • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Ear not improved after 3 days
    • Infection not gone by 2 weeks
    • Fever occurs
    • Spreading redness occurs
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Prevention of Infections in Pierced Ears

  • Prevent Infections in Newly Pierced Ears:
  • Prevent Infections in Well Healed Pierced Ears (pierced over 6 weeks ago):
    • Remind your child not to touch the earrings unless needed. Reason: Fingers can be dirty and infect the area.
    • Wash hands before putting them in or taking them out.
    • At bedtime, take out the earrings. Reason: So the channel is exposed to air at night.
    • Clean earrings, posts, backs and earlobes with rubbing alcohol. Do this before putting earrings in.
    • Apply the backs loosely to prevent any pressure on the earlobes. Reason: Allows the ear channel to have a good blood supply.
    • Polish or discard any posts with rough spots.
    • Avoid heavy earrings.
  • Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have other questions or concerns

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

 

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Delhi, Cincinnati, Ohio Office
Delhi, Cincinnati, Ohio Office

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Harrison Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio Office
Harrison Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio Office

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Delhi Office Hours

Monday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Tuesday:

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Wednesday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Thursday:

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Friday:

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Saturday:

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Sunday:

CLOSED

Taylor Creek Office Hours

Monday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Tuesday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Wednesday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Thursday:

8:15 AM – 8:00 PM

Friday:

8:15 AM – 4:30 PM

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

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