Ear piercing is a common practice among individuals of all ages and is typically considered to be a very safe procedure. Done until the supervision of an ear piercing technician, infants, adults and even our family pets undergo ear piercings every day. But, when an infected ear piercing manifests, the complications associated with the piercing should not be taken lightly. In rare cases, an infected ear piercing may be associated with a life threatening staph infection.
Staph infections are the types of bacterial infections that typically require hospitalization and can, at times, be difficult to treat ‘” even leading to life threatening health issues. If you are about to undergo an ear piercing, it is important to ensure that hygienic techniques are used to minimize the risk for this type of infection in the ear that is pierced.
Symptoms of an infected ear piercing typically manifest, first, as swelling, pain, and redness around the area of the ear that was pierced. Over time, as the infection progresses, it is not uncommon to experience ear pain, loss of hearing and even develop symptoms of infection in the sinus cavity. After obtaining an ear piercing, it is important to pay attention to any pain or discomfort you may have and to seek out treatment should symptoms manifest and not easily resolve with alcohol swab. Just like the causes for retinal scarring after eye surgery, a simple ear piercing can lead to scarring and staph infections.
When a staph infection develops around an infected ear piercing, the risk with this type of infection involves systemic bacterial symptoms that can lead to swelling of the heart and other organs. When not treated properly, this type of infection can be life threatening. It is for this reason that physicians will often hospitalize the patient who has the sign of any type of staph infection so as to provide IV antibiotic therapy and to also prevent spread of the infection to other individuals.
While getting the ears pierced is very safe and often does not lead to infection, the risks for infection are still there nonetheless. By using good hygiene during the piercing process, and then using alcohol swabs on the pierced area for two to three weeks, most of the risks for staph infection will dissipate over time. As the earring hole is healed, the risk for staph infection becomes obsolete and few complications will arise in the long term. Always be sure to seek out medical treatment after an infected ear piercing develops, even if very little treatment is needed.
Sources: Journal of Medical Case Reports 2011, vol. 5, pp. 336-337