Is infection common?
Like other ear piercings, daith piercings are constantly exposed to bacteria from your hair, hats, phone, and more. This can increase your risk of infection.
A daith piercing is done by puncturing the cartilage tissue directly outside of your ear canal. This tissue is thicker and denser than the cartilage on your lobe and other outer edges.
There’s also less blood flowing to this part of the ear, which can prolong the healing process. A typical daith piercing can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months to heal, and you’re more likely to experience infection during this time.
If you’re concerned that your piercing might be infected, read on to learn how to identify the symptoms and prevent further complications.
What are the symptoms of infection?
There’s a big difference between an irritated and an infected piercing. An irritated piercing may appear red and sensitive to the touch. Irritation generally doesn’t need treatment and goes away on its own in a few days.
The area may be infected if this irritation persists or you experience:
- extreme sensitivity or pain when touched
- warm or hot tissue around the piercing
- yellow, green, or brown discharge
- swelling around the piercing
- unusual smell around the piercing
- body aches
- fever of 101°F (38°C) or higher
What causes infection and what can increase your risk?
Infection is often caused by touching the piercing with unwashed hands. This can introduce bacteria into the piercing, which increases your risk of infection.
Bodily fluids, such as sweat and saliva, that make contact with the piercing can also introduce bacteria to the site.
Because of the piercing’s location, your hair can easily catch on or irritate the piercing as can hats, headbands, and other hair accessories.
Makeup, cologne, perfume, and other cosmetics can also irritate and infect the piercing.
How to treat an infected daith piercing
If you suspect your piercing may be infected, don’t try to wait it out. This will prolong your discomfort and may lead to further complications.
You should never try to drain pus or fluid from the infected area. This can make the infection worse.
If your symptoms are severe, see your doctor. They may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
Mild infections can usually be treated at home. Here are some things you can do to help clear a mild infection.
1. Clean the area
Cleaning the infected area is your first line of defense against the infection spreading.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with gentle soap and warm water before touching the piercing. Once your hands are clean, gently clean the area with your piercer’s recommended cleanser or a soap formulated for sensitive skin.
Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based cleansers.
Make sure you clean the entire area around the piercing, including the area directly outside your ear canal. Then use a clean cloth or gauze to dab the area dry.
Repeat these steps three times a day until the infection clears up.
2. Apply a warm compress or do a sea salt soak
A warm compress can help the infection drain and relieve pain and swelling. Soaking the infection in a warm salt solution can also help the infection heal.
To use a warm compress:
- Fill a clean cloth-based product — such as a sock — with rice, oats, or beans.
- Seal the compress so that none of the contents spill out.
- Microwave the compress for 30 seconds.
- Put a clean cloth or other barrier between the compress and your ear.
- Apply the warm compress to your ear for 20 minutes.
- Repeat this twice a day for relief.
You can also wet a washcloth, microwave it for 30 seconds, and apply it to your ear for 20 minutes at a time.
To soak the area:
- Mix 1/4 tablespoon of salt or saline mixture with 8 ounces of warm, distilled water in a small cup or bowl that’s big enough for your ear.
- Dip your ear in the solution for a few minutes. Repeat this several times, replacing the solution regularly.
- After the area has soaked, use a clean cloth or gauze to dab the area dry.
- Repeat these steps two to three times a day until the infection clears up.
If the above method is hard on your neck, you can dip a clean cloth or gauze into the solution and gently press it onto the infected area. Repeat this several times, using a new cloth each time.
3. Avoid over-the-counter antibiotics or creams
Antibiotic ointments and creams are thick, which can trap bacteria under the skin. This can make the infection worse.
You shouldn’t use these to clean the infection, even if they’re available as over-the-counter medications and marketed as infection treatments for home use. Only use topical antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
Should you take the jewelry out?
If my daith piercing becomes infected, should I take out the jewelry? Is it safe to leave the jewelry in?
If you suspect an infection, you should not remove the jewelry. Removing the jewelry will often cause the piercing site to close up, making it impossible to reinsert jewelry at that site. If treated promptly, most infections will clear up quickly.
If you aren’t experiencing drainage, fever, or significant pain, the irritation may be the result of an allergic reaction. Your piercer can assess your symptoms and determine whether it’s necessary to change out the jewelry.Judith Marcin, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
When to see you doctor
If your symptoms don’t improve within a day or two, see your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if:
- you experience extreme sensitivity or pain at the piercing site
- any part of the jewelry becomes lodged in your skin and won’t move
- you have a fever of 101°F (38°C) or higher
Your doctor is likely to prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. Medications may include levofloxacin (Levaquin) or ciprofloxacin (Cipro).
What to expect
Treatment depends on how severe the infection is. Minor infections should start to improve within two days of home treatment. More severe infections may require a one- or two-week course of prescription antibiotics.
Proper cleaning and care are essential to clearing the current infection and preventing further complications.
If you’re unsure of how to care for your piercing, talk to your piercer. They can answer any questions you may have and go over best practices.
How to prevent future infections
Preventing future infection is key to keeping a piercing long term.
To reduce your risk for infection:
- Follow your piercer’s aftercare instructions for at least six to eight months after you get the piercing.
- Keep the original jewelry in until your piercer says it’s safe to change it out.
- Don’t touch the piercing site unless you’re cleaning the area or changing your jewelry.
- Wash your hair once a day or every other day with a gentle shampoo.
- Use a clean cloth to gently dab the piercing site dry after every shower or bath.
- Cover the piercing site when you spray products on your face or hair.
- Don’t apply face makeup directly to the area around your ear.
- Clean your phone screen daily to prevent bacteria from spreading to your ear or hands.
- Clean any headphones, earbuds, or earmuffs weekly.
- Change your pillowcases once a week.