Infected Cartilage Piercing Treatment and How to Prevent the Infection

infected ear piercing

Each time you wish to get your cartilage pierced, you should be careful and consult a professional.  Inexperienced piercers, usually found at mall kiosks may use unhygienic and unsterilized tools leading to an infected cartilage. If there are signs of an infected cartilage piercing, do not ignore it.

It is likely that you may lose a part of your ear with this type of infection. Symptoms of these infections range from swollen cartilage piercing to a cartilage piercing bump.

This article explains common causes, signs of infection, associated symptoms, treatments, and proper cleaning process for infected cartilage piercing. 

Possible Causes of Cartilage Piercing Infection

Below are some mentioned causes of infected cartilage piercing:

1. Poor and Unhygienic Equipment or Procedures

The most common causes of infected cartilage piercings are poor and unhygienic equipment and procedures. Unhygienic equipment includes unsterilized needles, guns, and other equipment.

Cartilage piercing infections are caused by the Pseudomonas aeruginosin bacteria. The infections are associated with “kiosk piercers” who are usually non-professional.

2. Inexpensive and Wrong Materials in Jewelry

Another common cause of infected cartilage piercing is allergic reactions to the material of the jewelry. An example is nickel, a type of metal known to cause these allergic reactions. Stainless steel, gold, and titanium are better choices for jewelry.

3. Poor Personal Hygiene and Aftercare

Poor personal hygiene and aftercare are the third common cause for infected cartilage piercings. An infection can happen after the piercing or during the healing process. You should follow the aftercare protocol after the piercing and during the healing process to avoid infection.

Other Causes

Other causes for infected cartilage piercings include:

  • Over-cleaning the pierced area
  • Wearing jewelry while partying or playing sports.
  • Using a piercing gun instead of a needle. A piercing gun increases the chance of infection.

How to Spot Infected Cartilage Piercing?

How do you know if your cartilage piercing is infected? Identifying the signs of an infected cartilage piercing is easy. Here are some infected cartilage piercing symptoms:

  • Redness around the piercing that could last up to several days
  • Change in skin color around the pierced area after redness leaves
  • Extended bleeding of pierced area
  • Itching or burning in the pierced area and surrounding cartilage
  • Tenderness and pain in cartilage
  • Yellowish or greenish discharge from the pierced area
  • Scabbing and formation of crust
  • Swelling around the piercing
  • In some cases, a  person may experience fever

Infected Cartilage Piercing Treatment Options

What to do if your cartilage piercing is swollen or infected. Here are some traditional treatments and home remedies for infected cartilage piercing.

 1. Traditional Treatments

Knowing the causes and common symptoms of an infected cartilage piercing will help you know how to treat an infected ear piercing. The following are some traditional treatments for these kinds of infections.

1. Use of Strong Antibiotics

Antibiotics are the first choice for treating cartilage piercing infections. Antibiotics are highly recommended when cellulitis occurs. Cellulitis is when the infection grows beyond the piercing site. Your doctor must confirm the infection is caused by bacteria.

Commonly prescribed antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, does not work for these infections because they are not strong enough. Cipro is one of the strong antibiotics that can be prescribed. However, it is not prescribed for children. See your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicines for infected ear piercing.

2. Saline Solution

A saline solution is appropriate for mild infections. This solution is used as a cleaning agent for the pierced area. It is also a natural way to heal the infection.

3. Warm Compress

A warm compress is used to promote blood flow to the infected area. It is recommended to use a warm compress that is made of water and sea salt. For this treatment to work effectively, it is best to avoid alcohol and smoking as well as adhere to proper nutrition.

4. Antibacterial Ointments

There are antibacterial ointments available for infected cartilage piercings, but you should take doctor’s approval. These ointments can impede the draining process of the infection and slow down the healing process.

Use the cleaning solution that the piercer provided or recommended. Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because these agents dry out the skin.

Home Remedies for Infected Cartilage Piercing

Some individuals develop a bump on the infected pierced site. This bump forms on the backside or at the site of the piercing.

There are symptoms associated with this bump, which includes bleeding, fever, foul smell, inflammation, oozing, and pain.

The cause of these bumps is excessive collagen growth. Here are some home remedies for these bumps.

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is the most efficient way to get rid of these bumps. To apply the oil on the infection, use a cotton ball. Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties and can expedite the healing process.

2. Aspirin

Aspirin is to be used directly on the infected cartilage piercing. The first step is to crush aspirin before adding a few drops of water. Then apply it on the bump, repeat this process two to three times a day.

3. Chamomile Tea

Dip the chamomile tea bag in hot water first. Place the bag on the site, and leave it there until the bag is cold, approximately 10-15min. Do this about two times a day.

4. Sea Salt Soak

The salt to water ratio for this soak is a quarter teaspoon of salt to eight ounces of water. Use a cotton ball to apply the soak to the infected cartilage piercing. Leave the sea salt on the bump for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.

5. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice helps get rid of the bump. For this treatment, fill a small bowl with water and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Use a cotton ball to apply the solution to bump.

Cleaning the Infected Cartilage Piercing

It takes a long time for infected cartilage piercings to heal because there is not enough blood circulation to that area. But it can heal faster with proper aftercare. Here is how to clean the pierced area for a more rapid healing process.

The recommended method for cleaning and aftercare is a saline solution. A saline solution is a mix of sea salt and warm water. Before applying on pierced site, make sure the area is properly cleaned and free of dirt, pus, dead tissue, and other material. Some individuals find the use of antibacterial soap more effective, but then you shouldn’t have sensitive skin.

Read Next:

Schaefer, A., “How to Treat an Infected Ear Piercing,” Healthline web site,, last accessed October 03, 2017.
Carteaux, C. “Infected Cartilage Piercing,” Med Health Daily web site;, last accessed October 03, 2017.
Kucherov, V., “Cartilage Piercing Infection Causes, Signs, Bump, How to Treat, clean it,” Healcure web site, Feb 26, 2015;

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Irene Entila

Irene is a health and fitness consultant based out of Albuquerque, NM. She was a personal trainer during the years of 2010-2013. She holds a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with a focus on creative writing from The Evergreen State College. She obtained her personal trainer license through Seattle Central College in 2010. Irene has been an athlete since childhood. She currently train and compete in ultra-marathon running and jiu jitsu. She started health writing in 2009 as a hobby through her personal blog. She believes that people can seek help from a trainer or trained profession to reach fitness and health goals. Though, people can learn a lot about them and promote self-sufficiency if they had affordable resources. By 2010, Irene started contributing to several health websites while completing her personal trainer certification and training for marathons. She saw how certain health variables affected her training and wanted to share this information with the public. Since then, Irene has written various articles about health and fitness featured on different magazines.