Posted on November 20 2018
If you recently got a new ear piercing or you've had your ears pierced for a while and out of no where they become irritated, you've probably wondered if your ear piercing is infected. It can be tricky to determine if your symptoms are actually from an infection or if they are due to a metal allergy or if they are just normal symptoms of a new piercing.
Here is our guide to figuring out if you ear piercing is infected or if you have a metal allergy and some tips on how to treat your infection or allergy you can have a happy and healthy ear piercing.
The first step is to determine whether your ear piercing is infected or if you have a metal allergy or just normal new piercing symptoms. We broke each issue down by the common symptoms:
- Extreme redness, red streaks
- Warm to the touch
- Fluid Discharge/Pus
- Fever/Chills/Upset Stomach
Infections can usually be distinguished from normal healing symptoms or metal allergies if they are accompanied by fever, chills, or an upset stomach. Those symptoms are unique to an infection. The only way to be sure is to see a doctor. If your piercing is indeed infected then the doctor should prescribe you antibiotics.
- Fluid Discharge/Pus/Bleeding
Metal allergies are contact allergies that affect the area of the body that is in contact with the allergen. For these reasons, metal allergy symptoms are contained to the area around the ear piercing, and typically do not include fever, chills, or an upset stomach.
If you have these symptoms in a piercing that you have had for a long time, or after trying out a new pair of earrings, the cause is likely a metal allergy. It is likely that this allergy has been developing for a long time and the symptoms are just starting to manifest.
When you get a new piercing there is trauma to your body and your body will respond as if it has been injured. This response will include redness, swelling, and tenderness. These are normal responses and should lessen and go away after time. If these symptoms do not get better after a few days then you may have an infection.
If you indeed have an infection, you need to see a doctor and most likely will be prescribed antibiotics or an antibiotic ointment. In addition, you should clean you piercing and earrings with rubbing alcohol. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the earring post and reinsert it. Continue this practice 3 times a day until the infection clears.
If you have a metal allergy, you should remove the allergen (aka the reactive earrings) and replace them with non-allergenic earrings. Our starter studs are perfect for healing an allergic reaction because they are biocompatible and do not react with the human body. They allow your piercing to heal without closing up.
If your symptoms are due to a new piercing, continue to follow your piercer's care instructions which most likely includes twice daily salt soaks and cleaning the area around the piercing. Make sure your hands are clean before you touch your piercing or earrings. Make sure to rinse your piercing after showering or doing your hair to make sure that irritants were not trapped in the piercing.
To prevent an infected ear piercing, first and foremost make sure you choose a piercer who is experienced and who has a sterile environment. This is the most important step to avoid an infection. Choose initial earrings with posts made from biocompatible materials like medical grade titanium, or gold/stainless steel that has been alloyed for biocompatiblity. Apply the earring clasp loosely so that your ear lobe has room to swell without causing pain. Do not touch your piercing unless your hands are clean. Rinse your piercing after showering or doing your hair to make sure that irritants were not trapped in the piercing. Clean your piercings regularly and apply salt soaks as needed, especially during the healing process.
To prevent metal allergies, choose earrings made with biocompatible metals. Metal allergies develop after being in contact with reactive metals. If you do not wear earrings with reactive metals you will not develop an allergy or have an adverse reactions. For more information on earring metals, see our article on which metals are best for sensitive ears.