What You Should Know About Ear Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 18, 2023
4 min read

Ear piercing can be safe and simple, but there are some important guidelines to follow when you get it done. If you know what to expect during the piercing and how to take care of your ear afterward, you'll cut your chances of infection.

Depending on where you go for your piercing, and the part of your ear that you choose, a professional with a needle or piercing gun cleans your ear, marks a spot, and creates a hole. The piercer then places an earring in the hole.

Depending on where you go for your piercing, and the part of your ear that you choose, a professional with a needle or piercing gun marks a spot and creates a hole. The piercer then places an earring in the hole.

Yes, at least a little. But it's rare to need anesthesia.

Possibly. A little bleeding is normal.

No. Don't take aspirin or anything with aspirin in it. This can cause you to bleed more than normal.

Piercing may not be a good idea while you're pregnant because of the risk of getting an infection. Check with your doctor first if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Hemophilia
  • An autoimmune disorder
  • A heart condition
  • A condition that slows or prevents healing
  • Skin issues in the area you want pierced, including a lesion, rash, lump, cut, or mole

Piercing breaks your skin and opens the door to problems like:

  • Allergic reaction. Jewelry made of nickel or brass can trigger it.
  • Infection. People sometimes have redness, swelling, pain, and a discharge after a piercing.
  • Skin trouble. You may get problems such as scars and keloids (overgrown scar tissue).
  • Blood diseases. You can pick up hepatitis B and C, tetanus, and HIV from equipment contaminated with infected blood.


This is up to you. In some cultures, parents have their baby's ears pierced hours or days after birth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there's no health risk at any age, as long the setting and procedure are safe and sterile. But they also suggest that you wait until your child is old enough to handle the care involved afterward.

If you choose to have your child's ears pierced, start small. Round, flat earrings are best. Avoid anything big or dangly that can catch on clothing and tear your child's earlobe.

Only a professional. Some pediatricians do piercings on young children.

Make sure you do research on ear piercing professionals beforehand. Ask people you trust for recommendations, and visit a few piercers to get a feel for the place and person.

Some "positives" to look for:

  • A clean studio with good lighting
  • A selection of hypoallergenic jewelry

Ask these questions:

  • Are you licensed?
  • Do you wear disposable gloves?
  • What equipment do you use?
  • How do you sterilize it?

Avoid any place where they sterilize equipment in the studio's public bathroom.

Look for titanium, 14-karat gold, or surgical-grade steel.

You can make holes in about 15 places on your ear:

  • Lobe
  • Upward along the outer cartilage
  • Inward along the part of the ear attached to your head
  • Several places in the center

There are different types of tissue in different parts of your ear, so how long it takes to heal depends on your body and the place you've pierced.

Earlobes usually take 6-8 weeks. If you pierce the cartilage on the side of your ear, it can take 4 months to a year. Ask your piercing professional for an estimate.

Clean the area around your piercing twice a day with soap and warm water or rubbing alcohol. Your piercing professional may recommend a specific cleanser. Put an antibiotic ointment around the area to prevent a skin infection.

Though it's tempting, try not to touch your ear piercing. Germs from your hands can cause an infection.

Avoid places where germs flow freely, like pools and hot tubs.

It's also important to leave your piercing in place, even at night, unless you have an infection or other issue.

Right after an earlobe piercing, your ear may be red or swollen. That should go away after a day or two.

If it continues, feels itchy, or has a discharge, try this three times a day:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Put 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and stir.
  • Don't remove the earring. Soak a cotton ball in the salt water and place it on the infected area.
  • Pat it dry with a tissue or clean cotton ball.
  • Put a little bit of over-the-counter antibiotic cream on the area.
  • Rotate your piercing a few times.

If it's still not better, or if a different part of your ear is infected, see your doctor.