Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

How to treat a piercing site infection

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?

Updated: 03-08-2019

Answer

Answer Section

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.