Cartilage is especially prone to infections, since the area has fewer blood vessels to transport white blood cells in. Despite their popularity, ear piercings are no exception. Here are some tips on preventing infection in the area, recognizing the signs of an infected ear piercing, and some ways to calm down swelling at home. If you believe you have an infection, be sure to get the second opinion of a doctor, as allergic reactions can look very similar.
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Preventing Infected Ear Piercing
While this might seem like common sense, ear piercing is not suited to children that are too young to clean up after themselves. While you can easily pierce your ears at home, it is a much better idea to have an experienced doctor, technician, or piercer to do the deed. They know all the correct procedures to keep a sterile environment and prevent infection. They can insert a rod at the same time as the piercing is done and they can ensure that the angle of the piercing is optimal.
The type of jewelry that you get is crucial to preventing infections. Nickel is a common allergy, and an allergic reaction is almost certain to get a secondary infection. By using earrings that do not contain nickel, you vastly decrease your chances of getting an ear infection. Most safe earrings will be labeled as nickel-free or hypoallergenic, making shopping for them easy. Once you have received your piercing and jewelry, you should be sure to rotate your earrings. While rotating them can be uncomfortable for the first few days, it prevents the wound from healing around the earring. If the body does end up absorbing the earring, then you will not only have a painful time getting your earring out for the first time, but you will also have to open the wound again and increase your chances of an infection. Rotating it at least once per day is sufficient to prevent this.
The easiest way to prevent ear piercing infection is to practice good hygiene, clean the area occasionally, keep an eye on its healing, and avoid using creams to soothe the area. Avoid messing with the piercing more than you have to, keep your hands clean constantly, and do not go swimming in pools or lakes. While many sites claim that antibacterial creams are essential for preventing infections, they are actually disastrous for your health. It is difficult to rinse cream out of your ear, and a build-up of cream functions as a seal that allows bacteria to breed undisturbed. Just stick to rubbing alcohol or saline solution. It will definitely sting, but it also goes a long way towards preventing an infection.
Signs of an Infected Ear Lobe
When you have an infected ear cartilage piercing, there are a few signs that indicate trouble. One of the earliest signs of infection are swollen lymph glands around your ear, neck, or jaw. Another mild sign is the presence of a fever. Anything above 99*F should raise your eyebrows, while anything over 100*F is indicative of a serious illness or infection. In conjunction with swelling, heat, sensitivity, or redness around the ear piercing, it’s safe to assume that you have an infection and should seek treatment.
It is normal for pus and plasma to ooze out of a healing piercing, but if it has been more than three days and your piercing is still oozing alongside tenderness and swelling, or if you have green-colored pus, you should see a doctor as soon as you can. The most dangerous sign of infection are bright red streaks that surround the piercing site. This is a sign that the infection has spread to the blood. Blood infections are incredibly serious and should prompt you to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Infected Ear Piercing Treatment at Home
You should always go to see a doctor for medical advice, and it is no different for ear piercing infections. Doctors will know if it is an infection or an allergic reaction, and this can be crucial in determining how to treat it. You also should keep the jewelry in until you can confirm whether or not it is an allergic reaction. In the case of an infection, keeping the rod in ensures that you and your doctor have an easy opening to treat the wound. Doctors can also prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. If you do end up taking antibiotics, be sure to finish your regimen so that your infection does not return. On the other hand, if you are experiencing an allergic reaction, keeping the rod in is disastrous. This is why doctors are so crucial in making this decision.
If you think that your body is only overreacting, you can take the same steps detailed above to prevent a full-blown infection. You can flush the area with rubbing alcohol or saline solution. The saline solution can even be made at home—just boil a cup of water with a few spoonfuls of salt (no need to be fancy, any salt will do). Once again, it is not a good idea to use antibacterial creams, as those creams can build a barrier that allows bacteria to thrive once the cream’s efficacy has worn off.
Once again, a doctor’s opinion is required for determining if you have an infection or an allergic reaction. Green pus or an expanding wound warrant an immediate visit to the doctor.
Old Infected Ear Piercing
Occasionally, old ear piercings can be irritating, inflamed, swollen, and red. The most probably cause is that you scraped the area while putting in your jewelry and opened a new wound on the inside of your ear. While this is a normal occurrence, you should seek medical attention if it has the signs of an infection. If your piercing gets irritated from wearing certain types of jewelry, avoid those types and stick to hypoallergenic earrings.
The good news is that, if caught fast, ear infections can be treated. The piercing area can even close up without a scar! Of course, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to treat—so be sure to visit a doctor if you think you have an infection!
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