How to treat old ear piercing that's always infected?
August 27, 2006 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Old ear piercing always gets infected. How to treat it?

I have had one piercing in each ear since I was three years old. Over time I seemed to develop an allergy to most metals. I resorted to replacing all of my earring posts with nickel-free posts, which are supposed to be hypoallergenic. Even so, the piercing in my right ear gets infected (hot, red and itchy) a few hours after I put nickel-free earrings in.

The only earrings that don't give me problems are tiny white-gold studs--cute but boring and expensive to replace.

Why does the infection come back to the same ear every time? Is there anything I can do to desensitize my ears and get rid of this infection for good?
posted by mintchip to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How well are you cleaning your earrings? Rather than desensitizing your ears, it might be what's hiding in the nooks and crannies of your jewelry that's the problem. Those tiny white-gold studs may simply be too smooth to harbor any little beasties that want to make a home in your piercing.

I had a pair of earrings that I love that used to regularly give me ear infections, until I spent about a week rotating them through soaking in rubbing alcohol, smothering them in neosporin-type antibiotic cream, baths in the hottest water I dared, overnights in the freezer- in a nutshell, everything that might possibly kill the little buggers dead, and then for the next few weeks rinsing them in rubbing alcohol after each wearing, and that seems to have done the trick- I can wear them now without trouble.
posted by ambrosia at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2006

I've consistently treated one of my piercings with a warm salt water wash for a few weeks when it has troubled me in the past. Have you considered something like that before?
posted by sjvilla79 at 5:25 PM on August 27, 2006

i second the warm salt water wash, sea salt is the best!
posted by kuppajava at 7:10 PM on August 27, 2006

My older sister has this problem, the underlying source was eczema. Maybe try a little dab of cortisone?
posted by Sara Anne at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2006

My ears are especially sensitive. I found that dipping the posts of my earrings into Neosporin before inserting them helps keep away the red itchy feeling. When I remove them at the end of the day, I use hydrogen peroxide to clean my piercing, and apply more Neosporin. I'm also a big fan of cleaning my earrings with rubbing alcohol.
posted by Corky at 7:23 PM on August 27, 2006

I had a number of earrings in both ears for a short time in college. I quickly discovered that I have particularly sensitive skin and tissue in my ears, and nothing I did, including many of the recommendations above, seemed to improve the situation. Finally, I gave up and removed all the earrings. It was, unfortunately, the only solution for me.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:49 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second dipping the posts in Neosporin. I used to have to wear gold earrings all the time - now I can wear silver if I dip them in the Neosporin.
posted by gt2 at 8:54 PM on August 27, 2006

I go through waves, it seems - I'll have periods of time where I can wear any sort of earring with no problems, then I'll go through the whole sterilizing/disinfecting/praying that they won't bug me this time, only to have to rip them out of my ears after maybe ten minutes. I'll have to try Neosporin.
posted by Lucinda at 5:49 AM on August 28, 2006

Thirding the Neosporin (or cortisone if the Neosporin doesn't stop the itching) and cleaning the posts and as much of the earring itself as you can. I use Seabreeze astringent (well, the drugstore knockoff) for that because, for whatever reason, that's what they had me use 25 years ago when I got my ears pierced the first time and it's never done me wrong. I've got a new cartilage piercing higher up on my ear that seems to dislike all my hair goop, so I give the entire area a wipe-down with Seabreeze morning and night.

You might consult a piercing shop, if you've got one within reach. It is possible that your holes are slightly too small for most earrings, and it's the stretching that's causing irritation.

I would recommend getting some stainless steel earrings (like all-stainless studs or the captive bead rings everybody gets in a new non-mall piercing) and wearing them without interruption for a couple of months, with a daily cleaning regimen as if they were new. Give them time to heal before you try any questionable metals.

Oh, and wash your hands (or at least use hand sanitizer, if it's an emergency) before touching your earrings. Every time!
posted by Lyn Never at 6:37 AM on August 28, 2006

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