My new ear piercing isn't healing well. It's red, itchy and still swollen after a week. Do I need to see a doctor?
Answer From Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.
This is probably a minor infection that you could try treating at home, unless the piercing is through cartilage. Cartilage is the hard tissue in the rim of your ear. Seek medical care for a cartilage piercing that is painful, itchy, red and swollen.
For minor infections in soft tissue, take these steps:
- First wash your hands with soap and water. Then prepare a saltwater solution of 1 cup (0.24 liters) water with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until the salt dissolves.
- Leaving the piercing jewelry in place, soak a cotton ball in the solution and place it on the affected area.
- Gently pat dry the affected area with clean gauze or a tissue.
- Then apply a small amount of an over-the-counter antibiotic cream (Neosporin, bacitracin, others), as directed on the product label.
- Turn the piercing jewelry a few times to prevent it from sticking to the skin.
Do this three times a day until the infection improves. Also make sure your phones are clean and that you change your pillowcase with a clean one every two days.
If the infection doesn't improve in three days, seek medical care.
March 08, 2019
- Thompson DA. Ear piercing. In: Adult Telephone Protocols: Office Version. 4th ed. Itasca, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2018.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 18, 2019.