Ear Piercing Infections

In recent years, piercing of the ears has become more popular, especially with younger people. It is essential that you attend a reputable place with a high level of hygiene, and one using pre-sterilized studs. Unless great care is taken, infections of the car lobe can occur, producing pus-filled, painful discharges and infected holes. Also, cases of hepatitis B (which is known to be fatal on occasions) have been reported and the AIDS virus could also be transmitted in this manner.

Sometimes, months after the piercing has occurred, some people develop soft swellings on the back of the car. This is called keloid tissue, and is a form of scar tissue. It may also become inflamed and painful. If this occurs and causes distress, surgical removal of the lump (often by the cosmetic surgeon) may be necessary. Any infection requires medical attention.

Ear Piercing Infections Symptoms

Often the onset is acute and extremely painful. It frequently starts on only one side, but may rapidly spread to include both ears. It is usually progressive, and may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, irritability, general aches and pains, plus the symptoms of the underlying disorder precipitating the ear trouble. Deafness coming on suddenly is a common symptom. In young children there may be pulling of the ear. Others may not be able to localize the discomfort, and will merely be feverish, unhappy, irritable and crying. Medical attention is essential, and it is useless to try to cure it yourself, for delay in appropriate medication may enable serious complications to become established.

In recent years it seems fashionable for infants and young children (and even older women) to have the lobes of the ears pierced, and studs or earrings to be fitted. What is your opinion about this? I know it’s popular, and this will probably increase. Often very young children are submitted to the current craze. It probably depends on the mother’s attitude.

There are some risks I feel are worth knowing. A certain number become infected. Germs can take over the wound, to produce a painful, red, hot earlobe. It may discharge, and surrounding glands in the neck may swell and be quite sore. The child so affected may run a fever.

Any infection may be serious. It needs proper medical attention, probably paracetamol elixir for the fever and maybe an antibiotic to be taken orally for a few days.

But in addition, some patients develop a meaty looking growth on the back part of the ear near where the hole was pierced. This is called “keloid,” and is more common in some. Scars on other parts of the body may show a similar tendency to enlarge and become ugly. Sometimes this reaches a situation where removal of a growth by the surgeon is necessary. I must point out this is usually a non-cancerous growth, so there is no need for panic.

But in some cases, other infections may occur. This is more likely if the parent has taken the child to a place where the standard of hygiene is not good. It was more common before the present wide use of pre-sterilized studs and units. A serious disease called hepatitis B (occasionally fatal), which infected the liver, could occur if the previous client suffered this. She may have had the germ in her bloodstream without knowing it (called a “silent carrier”), and in this manner the unhygienic instruments could pass the germ on to the next client – or even (as happened on several occasions) many to be subsequently infected. Therefore, mothers should make certain they attend only reliable clinics and where the standards of cleanliness are very high. Also make sure that the pre-sterilized studs are in use. This is the safest move.

Ear Piercing Infections Treatment

Commonly the infecting organism in Australia is streptococcal, or Haemophilus influenza. Generally only one type of germ is involved in any particular incident. These germs are found in the upper airways of normal children, but under adverse conditions tend to become pathological. However, viruses probably play a part, for tests done on ear discharges frequently fail to grow any organisms.

The basis of therapy is bed rest during the acute stages, sedation, and analgesia to reduce pain and bring down elevated temperatures. The local use of ear drops is not advised. Some doctors recommend nasal drops in the hope of establishing drainage of the Eustachian tube, believing this might assist. It is doubtful.

Antibiotics are usually ordered by the doctor, particularly if the drum is red and bulging, which suggests that pus could be forming in the middle ear. Penicillin, despite the fact that it has been around since the 1940s, is still the best in many cases. Otherwise, the semisynthetic penicillins may be preferable, such as amoxicillin and ampicillin or the cephalosporins, unless it is known the patient is allergic to these. Antibiotics are available in capsule form for oral use, and in syrups for children. This should be kept up for seven to ten days, irrespective of whether the symptoms subside early or not. Sometimes, as a start, to be blood levels of the antibiotic, an injection is given.

If there is no reasonable beneficial response within 24-36 hours, a change another antibiotic may be suggested; t. may be the case also if sensitivity in (by the pathologist) of any discharge indicates that a different drug is better. Sulpha drugs (often the combination ones currently in favor) or erythromycin may be substituted.

Years ago, bulging drums frequently burst, allowing masses of pus to escape and often relief was obtained. Hence ruptured drum (which had to heal) occurred. Also, incision of the drum is frequently carried out by the doctor. This was called myringotomy. But with modern medication this is now seldom required, and many younger doctors probably have never seen the procedure carried out.

Deafness is a common symptom of ear infections, particularly in the acuity stages. This is usually temporary, and after the infection has settled, hearing will gradually return. However, it may take 10 to 14 days (or even more) for this to occur.

Sometimes complications can take place. The infection might not settle down completely, and may smolder – for many weeks, finally producing an ear that persistently discharges. This is called a “glue ear,” and needs attention to be cured by an ENT specialist.

Occasionally, fortunately less often than in years past, some infections will advance into the mastoid space and set “masked mastoiditis.” This may be serious if undetected and left untreated. Years have gone by, infection of this part of the bone was common, and many older persons beared deep scars in the bone behind and below the ear, silent testimony to infections here in the “pre-antibiotic” era but it is still possible.

It is more unlikely, but still possible that infections may move to the brain plasma; very close by. It is possible for meningn occur, with all the serious repercussion this entails.