Infected Ear Piercing - Update

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by SRL, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    My daughter had her ears pierced in June and they healed well with no complications other than a little tenderness around one ear that she bumped about 6 weeks ago. A few days ago she complained one side was tender--I saw it Sunday and it was a little red but didn't seem unusual, then yesterday she woke up with a large red pustule on the backside. It was so swollen that I couldn't even get hold of the earring in the front to remove it so off to the doctor we went. He removed the earring, drained it, cultured it (for staph as they're seeing more of it), and sent her home with a strong antibiotic and instructions to me for keeping it clean. Ironically she takes excellent care of her pierced ears--washes her hand before cleaning them and cleans them 1-2 times a day, rarely do I see her fiddling with them. I'm of course kicking myself for not attending to it when she first complained but she's one of those kiddos who reports every little ache, pain, and bruise on a daily (at least once) basis.

    Has anyone ever dealt with this before? Were you able to save the piercing? Her pain tolerance is pretty low and given pain vs. fashion she might opt for letting them close and getting them redone when she's older.

  2. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    She may have an allergy. I found out a long time ago when my ears were first pierced that I'm apparently allergic to the nickel in most of the earrings. I had never had a reaction to metals before but the longer it went, the more I react to it. It's a very common allergy. Even the most expensive earrings usually have nickel in the backings. When they say the percentage of gold, they're only talking about the post that goes through the earlobe, not the backings. If I were to try to wear earrings now, or even a watch, I break out from them - with itching and redness.

    The last time I wore earrings was three years ago at my daughters wedding. I put them in right before the ceremony and was snatching them out again in the car right after the reception!

  3. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Thanks donna, I have a similar metal sensitivity and just finally gave up and let my ears close as I couldn't go a day without redness.

    She is still wearing the white gold earrings from when she had them pierced but we replaced the locked back with plastic since she couldn't get the locked ones on and off plus regular earrings seemed short on her thick lobes.
  4. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    I am sensitive to many earings too. I got a tip from Missy's psychiatrist about putting a tiny amount of vaseline on the stem before putting them in your ear. I didn't have any available, but had a tube of lanolin so I used that. It worked great. I used it on fake earings and they didn't bother me all night. I tried on Missy's ears, but they bothered her a little. I'll try again around the holidays. It did work for me.
  5. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Neosporin. That is what I had difficult child put on her earrings before putting them in.

    She recently had one of those red pustules as well. She popped it and cleaned it with peroxide and puts neosporin on it. She soaks the earring while cleaning her ear up. It is getting better.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I had this trouble when I first had my ears pierced. Especially with a new piercing, it doesn't take much to cause a problem. It really does take years for the piercing to get sufficiently scarred enough to be fairly well protected from this.

    I had studs to begin with, with the little catch along the shaft to stop the back bit from pinching up too close to the ear. I found that if ever it DOES pinch up, my ears get sore and inflamed. And plastic backs don't lock on properly, even to an earring shaft with a catch on it. By 'catch" I mean that little notch effect, like a ring around the earring shaft which allows the back to settle in place.

    I got my ears pierced while recuperating from kidney surgery, I was living with my parents at a tropical beach and swimming every day to regain my strength. I had long hair also, and I found a hair (more than one) would get wrapped around the earring shaft at the back. I remember husband (he was on holiday at our beach with his parents) found a hair and unravelled it, he said the end of the hair had actually gone inside the hole in my ear. And yes, that ear got infected, but keeping the hair away from my ears (I tied it up into a bun after that) and keeping the catch from locking up hard against my ear, helped it heal.

    easy child went through a similar thing - plus, I found that apart from my stud sleepers (the ones which were used to pierce my ears) if I wore ANY stud earrings, my ears would fairly quickly get inflamed. Even pure silver or gold studs would upset my ears after about a day. Sleeping in studs really upsets my ears.

    So I went out and bought myself a pair of sterling silver sleepers - the ring type. I wear them constantly. I can thread ornaments on them if I want - an alternative to dressy earrings. Of course, my skin turns sterling silver black, but I don't care. Dangly things scrape the black off and they still look OK. If I want to wear dressy earrings then I do, but I carry my sleepers so I can put them on when the outing is finished. I keep them in a small box in my bag so I can change out of my dress earrings and put my rings back in when I'm ready to sleep for the night. MUCH more comfortable. And infections are now VERY rare. If I get one, the rings make it much easier to treat. I dab on hydrogen peroxide rather than alcohol, followed by ti-tree oil. And I spin the ring in my ear lobe to get the treatment into the tissues where it needs to go.

    If the hole begins to close over you can open it gently by putting in some thinner earrings (avoid any metal other than silver, gold or maybe surgical steel) and then gently wriggling the ring around to stretch things comfortably. Sleepers tend to be much thicker, I put them in last. If the ear is inflamed, the original sleeper may not go in without doing more damage, but the rings tend to be thinner and easier to manage. Simply having even a really thin ring in, can open the ear up PLUS let the inflammation settle, so the next sleeper attempt should be easier.

    I have at times left earrings out for months. Not good. But I got the hole to open up again using that technique. And with an inflamed ear, a ring sleeper should still be OK - it allows the ear to 'breathe' and still keeps the hole open.

    The doctor told easy child, when she got her second pair of holes, that the further up the ear lobe you go with piercings, the greater the infection risk. He told her to never get any more ear piercings, she was already getting too many infections in the new holes.

    Hope that helps.

  7. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Yes, my easy child had that with a cartilage piercing. She had to take out the earring, open up the bump and drain it, clean it, etc. It healed and she had it re-done a few weeks later and it's fine. She only keeps gold in her ears now and takes scrupulous care.
  8. bby31288

    bby31288 Active Member

    I have found a product called H2 OCEAN to be very helpful for all piercings. She can spray it directly on the piercing, or soak a cotten ball with it and soak the piercing that way. It has healed, naval piercings, nose piercings and cartlidge piercings. Good Luck!
  9. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    It seems like, as common as all kinds of piercing have become, there would be a lot of infections showing up. And the resistant staph bacteria, MRSA, is on the rise. I read where it causes more deaths than AIDS now.
  10. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    HereWeGoAgain, it was rather unnerving to see that article on MRSA appear right when we're waiting for the culture results. I asked the pediatrician yesterday if they were seeing more piercing infections and he said not that often but occasionally. He did say they were seeing more staph. My easy child is only 9 and wouldn't let me near it without hysteria so taking her in was a no brainer but I could see older girls or those less sensitive to pain and yuck giving it a go at home.

    Thankfully my daughter does feel better and the pain is decreased. She does still have a large pustule which I think could use cleaning out but with her that would take a doctor trip. 7th grade was the typical age for girls getting pierced when I was young but now it's down to 2nd grade in my area. I think younger is okay provided there are no problems but I'm not sure she's as well equipped to handle problems as she might be if she were older.

    With these nasty germs going around, I wonder if the piercing trend will reverse.
  11. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Tell her to put the peroxide on it. My difficult child (at 16) was in awe with the bubble sound it created in her ear. Humph! She is so weird! I explained that she knew it was working if she heard that sound!
  12. Marcie Mac

    Marcie Mac Just Plain Ole Tired

    I have a problem with metal as well in my ears - it has to be gold or else I will have a problem with infections.

    As to the backings, for my good earings, I took them to a jeweler and had the posts made into screws, and have a backing that you just screw on. If I wear earings too tight, they get tender and it is just so much easier to screw the end off and take them out instead of trying to pry them out of your ears.

  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have found that if Jess or I want to wear earrings often we have problems. After 30 years with pierced ears they STILL get infected once in a while. A dab of neosporin on the earring helps. Neosporin plus pain relief is really great if there is any soreness. I find it quite effective at stopping the pain for a while.

    I started coating my earrings and backs with clear nail polish. I find that a very very thin coat will protect my skin from irritation by the metal.

  14. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    They were talking about the resistant strain of staph on "Good Morning America" this morning. They said that a very large percentage of the people who got it had picked it up when they were hospitalized!
  15. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    Yes, staph is common in hospitals despite all their rigorous efforts against it. But not just staph, other germs too.

    Hospitals are where really sick people congregate. Makes sense. Of course it'll be there, even if in small quantities.

    It's one of the first things they teach you when you enter the medical profession. The second is that FREUQENT handwashing (most especially before/after you see a patient) is the number 1 way of battling it.

    My girls often get infections from piercings. We eventually figured out it was due to a metal allergy. Now they can only have titanium earings ect.

    And yes, we have almost always saved the peircing.

  16. OTE

    OTE Active Member

    I had pierced ears for 5 or 10 years as a young adult. Could not find a pair of earrings that did NOT irritate my ears. They were chronically red and ugly looking. Lots of infections. Eventually I decided that it wasn't worth it and red ear lobes were not better than lobes that were not pierced. Note that I have more allergies than I can name. Can't wear a wristwatch or many bracelets either. As I'm typing I'm wearing a bracelet made of tiny rocks put together with some kind of clear plastic string. Seems I'm not allergic to rocks! LOL

    Earrings are a fashion item. I don't see the fashion industry, their models, actresses and so forth giving up on another way to accessorize and/or make money. If the famous wear them our kids will want them. I'd also note that for some cultures earrings are put on a newborn baby girl. It's cultural, I don't see that changing either. Sorry, but I think earrings are here to stay. Maybe they'll come up with rock ones. LOL
  17. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I can only wear solid gold or solid silver. I suppose platinum, too, but so far no one has offered me any platinum! If I buy expensive posts with solid gold or silver screw on heavy duty backs, it's fine, but otherwise, it's a severe reaction for me. I only take mine out every week or so to clean them. I can't leave them out for long, because mine close up in a day or two tops.
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Don't be too spooked by staph. We all carry staph on our skins. The problem happens when the staph gets into the tissues and instead of growing in an oxygen-rich environment, it changes and prefers no oxygen. That's why peroxide is so effective - it reacts with the protein in the tissue fluid (and pus) and bubbles of oxygen surround the staph and kill it off.

    But peroxide alone isn't enough, here. You need to remove the irritant (either pressure form the earring back, or the metal in the post) and replace it with something safe (like a metal that you can tolerate - hence silver or gold). Like OTE, I can't wear much in the way of other jewellery either. A watch with a metal back - I have to put adhesive bandage ono the underside of the watch, to keep the metal away from my skin. Surgical steel is OK, but most metals are not. I currently wear a medallion (SOS) as a medical history/allergy alert, which is on a surgical steel chain. I can tolerate that. Before that, I wore my medallion on a leather strap.

    back to staph - MRSA (multi-resistant staph aureus) is still fairly rare, it is found mostly in hospitals where an infection gets out among other patients. In such cases, strict infection control guidelines kick into place. MRSA in the community is restricted pretty much to those who were recently in hospital. But people hear 'staph' and panic. I had a chronic staph infection in my toe, I had a community nurse's aide visiting who saw me soaking my foot in hot water (my favourite non-antibiotic treatment - it works). When I mentioned 'staph' she panicked and said I should have notified hr office, they were told to not attend if there is staph in the house. I said she must have problems then, since every person has staph on their skins. I think her office meant MRSA, not the common garden variety staph.

  19. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I wanted to thank you for all your suggestions--it looks like we've probably saved the piercing but it was neither quick, easy, or cheap!

    This has turned out to be one stubborn infection. It's been 7 weeks since my post here and this past weekend was the first time I could say the ear looked free of redness. It's taken two doctor visits, two rounds of antibiotics, two pairs of 14K gold earrings from the jeweler, and a tub of misc supplies for ear care...not to mention the mother-daughter fuss of twice a day ear care. :faint:

    In hindsight, I should have taken her back in to get a second round of antibiotics when she finished the first and it wasn't all clear. I thought it had subsided enough that time and care would clear it up just like a new piercing but instead it continued to improve for a bit and then showed no signs of budging.

    I did find some tiny rubber backs called fishhook stops that were nice because I could attach them on the back and it let air onto the surface of the ear, instead of the metal back resting on it. When she still wasn't cleared up I decided to switch earrings all together.

    One of my friends told me about a jewelry store in town that really does a nice job with their customers. The clerk spent a lot of time helping us find earrings with longer posts that were suitable for a young girl and that she would like wearing. It doesn't look like my daughter will get to go to Claire's any time soon, but she did get a lovely wrapped box from the jewelers.

    Me, I got the bill. All total for doctor, medication, and earrings: $524...and I think I still have yet to receive the bill for the culture.

    Ka-ching!!! :shopping:
  20. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    :smile: :faint:

    Those are some expensive ears!

    Glad it cleared up.