Medical Mystery: A Teens Ear Piercing Goes Awry
Her pediatrician prescribed an antibiotic when her ear turned warm and red after a piercing. Why wasnt it working?
Three days before she came to our emergency department, a teenager named Jessica had been seen by her pediatrician for what seemed to be a skin infection on the outside of her right ear. The redness, swelling, and pain had developed a few days after a new ear piercing, so Jessicas mother called the doctors office.
Jessicas pediatrician diagnosed a mild case of a bacterial skin infection known as cellulitis, and gave her a prescription for an antibiotic, cephalexin, along with the standard precautions. If the redness spread or the ear became more painful, or if she developed fever, chills, or fatigue, it could be a sign of worsening infection, and she would need to either return to the office or go to the ER.
Its just not getting any better, the girl complained to us.
She was understandably frustrated with a high school dance just a few days away , she was worried how her swollen red ear might appear in photos, especially on social media. Was there anything we could do?
She seemed healthy to us. Her heart rate was normal, 86 beats per minute. Her blood pressure was 112/70, oral temperature 98.6. She had no headache, visual changes, or neck pain that would suggest extension of her infection into the brain or spinal cord , and an inspection of her ear drum, where diagnoses of middle ear infections are made, was normal.
Determine If Your Piercing Is Infected
The first thing is to determine if your piercing is actually infected. âA piercing may be infected if you notice redness, swelling, pain or tenderness, warmth, crusting, and yellow drainage around the piercing site,â says Chang. âMore severe infections can lead to spreading redness/swelling, fevers, chills, and swollen lymph nodes.â
âMy experience is that bellybutton piercings are the ones most at risk for infections. The second most common would be nose piercings,â says Zalka.
What’s Normal For A New Piercing
For the first few weeks a new piercing might:
- be tender, itchy, and the surrounding area may look slightly red on white skin, or a little darker than usual on dark skin
- produce a pale fluid that forms a crust
If you’ve had an ear or nose cartilage piercing, small lumps can sometimes form around the piercing.
The lumps, called granulomas, are trapped fluid. You can treat them by soaking a pad in warm water then holding the pad against them once a day.
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Regarding This Do Antibiotics Help Ear Piercing Infection
As long as your infection is minor, you may be able to take care of it at home. If youve had a cartilage piercing and it seems infected, seek medical treatment. These types of infections are harder to treat and may require oral antibiotics. Significant infections of the cartilage can require hospitalization.
How Is Piercing Performed
A single-use, sterilized piercing gun is typically used to insert an earring into the earlobe. For other parts of the body, a hollow needle is used to pierce a hole in the skin. The person doing the piercing will insert a piece of jewelry into the hole.
The safest piercing guns are single-use guns. That means its only used on one customer and then thrown away. This decreases the risk of infection. Piercing guns with sterilized disposable cassettes are also acceptable. But they dont promise the same level of sterilizing that single-use piercing guns do.
Dont receive a piercing from a reusable piercing gun that does not have sterilized disposable cassettes. These types of piercing guns cannot be autoclaved. An autoclave is a sterilization machine that uses heat to sterilize all non-disposable piercing tools. It helps make sure all tools are clean before they touch your body. It is an important piece of equipment in a clean piercing shop. Not being able to autoclave a piercing gun increases the risk of infection.
Also, dont have a piercing performed with a piercing gun on any part of your body except your ear. Doing so can crush the skin and cause more injury than a piercing performed with a hollow needle.
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Causes And Risk Factors
It is important to be extra careful when handling a new piercing. If bacteria get into a newpiercing, it can cause infection. Other causes include:
- Removing the earrings before the piercing heals
- Touching the ears with dirty hands
- Putting your head in a pool, river, lake, or hot tub before the piercing is healed
- Forgetting to clean the new piercings twice daily as recommended by a professional
- Getting the ears pierced with equipment that is not sterilized or in a place that is not properly cleaned or set up for ear piercing
What Causes A Cartilage Piercing Bump
One of the primary reasons why the infected cartilage piercing has developed a bubble is because it was handled in a rough manner, and no aftercare was practiced at all.
Additional causes may include wearing jewelry made from incorrect materials, using materials that have not been sterilized, or incorrect handling by the professional performing the piercing.
The formation of a bump is often viewed as part of the healing process associated with cartilage piercings. When you practice proper aftercare, it may be possible for you to avoid it all together.
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Signs Of An Infection
- Breathing difficulties
- Swollen mouth and tongue that blocks the airway
No matter where you were pierced, there is a risk of infection, hepatitis B or C, and tetanus. You may also develop a nasal staph infection if the jewelry is pierced through the hard nasal cartilage instead of the softer, fleshy part of the septum.
Some sites are more prone to infection than others. For example, high-rim ear piercings in the cartilage lead to infections more often than ear lobe piercings because they dont have as much blood flow, says Shannahan.
How Common Are Infected Ear Piercings
Millions of people get their ears pierced, and most of them have no serious complications. Mild irritation and infections are common, however, for new piercings. In most cases, infections arent serious and clear up quickly.
The earlobes are fleshy and fatty, with strong blood flow. They heal quickly, reducing the risk of an earlobe infection. The upper ear is cartilage, a thick, stiff tissue with less blood flow.
Piercings in the upper ear are more likely to become infected, and infections in the upper ear are sometimes serious.
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When Should I See A Doctor For An Infected Piercing
If you think you may have an infection, especially if itâs a cartilage piercing, itâs important to see a doctor as soon as possible to avoid complications and get started on antibiotics, says Shannahan. Donât wait to see if an infected piercing will heal on its own, especially if you already see it worsening.
A doctor may recommend topical antibiotics such as Neosporin, or oral antibiotics, depending on infection severity. Infections can occur near the piercing site, but it can also affect the whole body, so medical attention is critical.
âIf an infected piercing isnât treated, it can lead to issues at the site like abscesses , scarring, or deformities. More commonly in body piercings than ear piercings, there can also be conditions that affect the entire body like blood or heart infections,â says Shannahan.
Please Describe A Good Antibiotic To Treat An Ear Piercing Infection
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Perichondritis: Not Just Simple Cellulitis
Background: Perichondritis is an infection of the connective tissue of the ear that covers the cartilaginous auricle or pinna, excluding the lobule . The term perichondritis is itself a misnomer, as the cartilage is almost always involved, with abscess formation and cavitation . Perichondritis can be a devastating disease, and if left improperly treated, the infection can worsen into a liquefying chondritis resulting in disfigurement and/or loss of the external ear . Unfortunately, misdiagnosis and mistreatment is common. In one small retrospective review, the overwhelming majority of patients presenting to a large general hospital were prescribed antibiotics without appropriate antimicrobial coverage, resulting in a significant number of patients developing chondral deformities or cauliflower ear .
What Are The Risks
It can be difficult to drain a nasty pulp infection, because the pulp has many interconnecting channels within it, which gives bacteria lots of different little areas to hide in. You may require more than one surgery. Early treatment is preferable for a quick and full recovery. If treatment is delayed and your infection is slow to clear up you are at risk of skin necrosis , septic arthritis , osteomyelitis and . One of the risks of surgery is that you may have altered sensation at the site of the incision to avoid this, where possible the incision will not be made on the part of the pulp that is most frequently used to touch or hold objects.
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Significant Swelling And Redness
Does the site of your childs ear piercing look significantly puffier than normal? That could be a red flag for a potential infection.
Some swelling is to be expected following the trauma of an ear piercing. However, if your childs ear appears significantly large, red, and warm to the touch, it could mean that an infection is brewing.
Inflammation shouldnt last longer than a week and should be considered abnormal if it persists beyond that. If major swelling and redness havent subsided within a few days of the piercing, contact your childs doctor.
Should I Remove The Jewelry
You are not supposed to remove your jewelry once you have an infection since it helps the piercing to drain. Removing a jewelry might make the pierced channel to close up or result to abscess characterized by darkening and hardening of the surrounding tissue, swelling and pain as the infection is trapped under the skin.
In case of a serious infection, see your doctor or professional piercer who might be in a position to recommend whether you can remove the jewelry or not. Although very rare, sometimes the jewelry might be permanently removed if there is much destruction of the tissue around the piercing. This is likely to cause deformity of your ear.
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Youre Piercing What Medical Complications Of Cartilage And Ear Piercing
It was almost midnight when 14-year-old Kyla came to the emergency room with her mom and two friends but they knew that infected ear cartilage could not wait until the morning. Cartilage infections spread rapidly and can cause permanent disfigurement to the ear. Her ear didnt even look too bad just a little red and sore where she had pierced it five days before. Ive included a picture of her ear with the piercing studs still in place, and a picture of her ear after the earrings were removed and the piercings cleaned. We didnt realize how bad the infection was until the earrings were removed.
Kyla had done everything right. She had her upper ear cartilage pierced at a reputable jewelry store using sterile conditions and gold earrings. She cleaned the piercings appropriately with antiseptic solution. But five days later her cartilage piercings became infected, a medical emergency.
Antibiotics Recommended For Infected Wounds
An infection is the growth of a parasitic organism, also called a germ, within the body.The onset of an infection is sudden, causing pain and swelling around the wound. Those germs, more commonly bacteria, attach to the tissues preventing the wound from healing.
The bacteria can also enter the blood through the vein and cause a severe infection or sepsis. The antibiotic is chosen based on the bacteria present. Oral antibiotics are taken by mouth, while IV antibiotics are administered through a needle directly into the bloodstream.
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Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations
If your childs illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.
Minor Infection in Newly Pierced Ear in Last 6 Weeks
Minor Infection in Ear Pierced More Than 6 Weeks Ago and Healed
How To Manage Recurrent Skin Infections
Recurrent cellulitis is extremely challenging. Each repeated episode of cellulitis can cause inflammation and disruption of the lymphatic system and subsequent lymphoedema. The affected limb is subsequently more prone to infection and a vicious cycle of cellulitis and limb swelling is established.
Treating the underlying cause of infection is the most important step in management. In cases of chronic lymphoedema and venous stasis, compression of the affected limb by bandaging or stockings helps to increase venous return and contractility of the lymphatic ducts, therefore decreasing swelling and cellulitis. Further supportive measures such as elevation of the limb may also confer symptomatic relief. For example in cellulitis of the leg, raising the foot higher than the hip with supportive cushions helps to reduce swelling and pain. Prophylactic long-term suppressive antibiotics offer symptomatic benefit and costbenefit in cases of recurrent streptococcal cellulitis.6,7 Options include twice-daily oral penicillin or cephalexin.
For recurrent staphylococcal infections, decolonisation measures should be considered .8 In difficult cases of recurrent infections despite prophylactic antibiotics, expert consultation with an infectious disease specialist is recommended.
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Reasons For Ear Piercing Infection
Infection of the wounds usually happens with the fresh and newly done piercing within a few days after the piercing. It takes about 4 weeks or a little more to cure the open wounds on the ear entirely.
Besides infections, several other complications might occur after ear piercing. A study conducted by Biggar and Haughie has found the following complication frequencies in 497 female patients: redness and swelling , drainage , infection , bleeding , cyst formation , large scars , and trauma or tear .
There are several ways an infection after ear piercing can happen. Usually, it is the bacterial infection that makes the piercing wounds go bad and cause trouble to the ear. Bacterial infection can occur from the improper initial piercing technique or poor hygiene .
Let us look at some of the reasons that aggravate the infectious conditions:
- Use of unsterilized piercing instruments and posts
- Traumatic tearing of pierced tunnel
- Presence of a foreign body in the fresh opening on skin and earlobes
- Frequent touching of the pierced area with fingers
- Wearing tight or large earrings that hurt the earlobes
- Using poor quality earrings and studs
- Forceful insertion of ear studs in a fresh piercing
- Persons with any immune-compromised state
- Preexisting deformity at the piercing site, such as psoriasis or dermatitis
- Presence of skin pathogens such as streptococcal species and staphylococcal species in the piercing area
- Allergic reactions to certain metals like nickel
What Piercing Gets Infected The Easiest
Of all the body sites commonly pierced, the navel is the most likely to become infected because of its shape. Infections can often be treated with good skin hygiene and antibiotic medications.
Most commonly, an infected ear piercing is caused , which can happen in several ways. Handling with unclean hands. If you clean your ears without washing your hands first, you run the risk of exposing your piercings to bacteria. Not cleaning the piercing enough.
A cartilage piercing creates an open wound. As it heals, it may look swollen, lumpy, or like a bump. In the days immediately following a cartilage piercing, the bodyâs immune system triggers inflammation and swelling to heal the wound, sometimes leading to a cartilage bump.
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Deterrence And Patient Education
Patients need to be counseled on the risks of associated infection when undergoing body piercings. Importance should be placed on infection prevention and the need for utilization of a trusted and certified piercing parlor as these locations have requirements for proper hygiene and sterilization techniques.