Pierced Ear Infection: Brief Version

How do I know if the ear is infected?

If your child’s pierced ear gets infected, it may swell, and be red and sore. You may also see yellow pus or fluid.

How can I take care of my child?

Take out the earring 3 times a day. Clean the earring and both sides of the earlobe with rubbing alcohol. Put an antibiotic ointment on the post and put it in again. Keep putting on the ointment for 2 days after the infection seems cleared up.

How can I help prevent infections right after the ears are pierced?

When ears are first pierced:

  • Have the ears pierced by an expert. The person should clean and sterilize all the tools.
  • Use 14-carat gold or stainless steel posts.
  • Put the earring clasp on loosely. This allows for any swelling.
  • Clean and wash the holes 2 times a day. Do this for 6 weeks.
    1. First wash your hands.
    2. Turn the post 3 times while you clean around the hole.
    3. Then clean both sides of the holes with an ear care antiseptic. Don’t use rubbing alcohol.
  • Don’t take the posts out for 6 weeks unless it gets infected.

Some children should not have their ears pierced. DO NOT pierce the ears if your child bleeds easily, gets thick scars (keloids), or gets skin infections easily.

How can I help prevent later infections?

  • Make sure your child washes his or her hands before touching the earrings.
  • Touch only the earring when you put it in or take it out.
  • Clean the earring with alcohol before you or your child puts it in.
  • Clean telephones often with a disinfectant.
  • Put on the clasps very loosely. This stops the clasps from pushing on the earlobes. It also gives an air space on both sides of each earlobe.
  • Take off the earrings at bedtime. This airs out the holes at night

Call your child’s doctor right away if:

  • The earring clasp gets stuck in the opening and can’t be taken out.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if:

  • It gets red or swells outside of the pierced area.
  • Your child gets a fever.
  • The ears are not getting better after 48 hours of care.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-22
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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