How to Treat an Infected Helix Ear Piercing
A helix piercing is a perforation of the skin and cartilage on the outer rim of the ear. Cartilage piercings such as the helix are becoming more popular and not just because of their look. They have relatively few blood vessels compared to other types of ear piercing and are considered less painful. However, as with any type of body piercing, there is a risk of infection. If they do become infected, we might see a cartilage infection bump.
Not only is it essential we know how to treat piercing infections, we need to know how to take care of the piercing to prevent them. At oneHOWTO, we provide details on how to treat an infected helix ear piercing, as well as provide other tips on ear cartilage infections.
Symptoms of an infected helix piercing
To pierce the helix part of the ear, a small puncture is made in the upper cartilage. As with any wound, it will take some time to heal. Even if the piercer has properly disinfected the area and there were no issues with the procedure, we need to know what to expect after we leave the piercing studio. We may have questions such as is the helix piercing healing properly? How long will a helix piercing take to heal? Or, is it normal to feel pain after a helix piercing?
The first thing we need to bear in mind is that helix piercings will take an average of 2-3 months to heal completely. However, there are some people who might feel discomfort even 6 months after the procedure has been performed.
For the first days after getting a helix ear piercing, it is normal to experience some slight inflammation and/or redness at the piercing site. With healthy piercings, these symptoms should lessen over time, not increase. Clear fluid oozing from the wound is also normal in the first weeks.
Especially during the initial period after getting a helix piercing, we need to monitor the healing process very carefully. In addition to the symptoms previously described, we need to look for others which may indicate the healing process is not going well. These are the possible signs of an infected helix ear piercing:
- Increasing and intense pain in the area, even with minimal friction.
- Swelling that does not go away.
- Progressive redness with a tendency to darken in the area where the piercing is located (going from red to purple).
- Presence of yellow or greenish pus. This should not be confused with clear fluid or a minimal amount of white pus, which could be normal in the healing process. This is due to white blood cells healing the wound.
- Presence of blood seepage.
- Fever, an unequivocal symptom of any type of viral or bacterial infection.
- A small bump may appear in an infected ear piercing. This lump is called a keloid and can appear for other reasons, so we recommend that you or a doctor properly identify this lump. If it is accompanied by pus, pain, redness or inflammation, it is most likely an infection.
Keloid bumps on cartilage or skin can result in scar tissue appearing. While they may never go away completely, our article on how to get rid of keloid scars can help.
Tips to heal an infected helix piercing
Whether you have a cartilage bump or any of the symptoms described above, it's important to know how to treat the problem. However, it is important to do what we can to prevent infection. The first thing we need to do is guarantee to the best of our ability the quality of the piercing studio.
Research the studio online and look for reviews. Speak to the piercer before you book the appointment and ask them what their policies our and whether they are up to code. Do not get a friend who has looked it up on the Internet. This will not likely end well, even if you save some money.
Helix ear piercings are not the most sensitive areas to get pierced, unlike nose piercings and belly buttons piercings. However, to avoid getting a cartilage bump on the ear or any other type of helix piercing infection, you should:
- Be careful with the piercing material: the professional who pierces you should already know what to do, but it is worth insisting on the use of surgical steel material for the earring or stud. This is a hypoallergenic material which can help prevent infection. You should also inform them if you have any allergies which may be pertinent. Also ensure the piercing fits properly. This is also something the piercer should know all about, but a loose piercing can encourage infection by agitating the wound as it moves.
- Avoid perfume and makeup: if you begin to observe or feel symptoms that your piercing is infected, it is essential that you avoid using perfume or makeup. They could worsen the infection. We also recommend wearing your hair up while it is healing, as this will prevent your hair from getting tangled in the piercing.
- Maintain good general hygiene: try to keep your wound as clean as possible, wash it carefully with mild soap and dry it well with gauze and with extreme care so as not to hurt yourself.
- Use physiological/isotonic saline: to keep the wound clean and prevent the infection from getting worse, you can also wash it with physiological saline solution also known as isotonic saline solution. Remember to dry your ear well with clean gauze, but always do it very carefully so as not to agitate the cartilage bump.
If it is a mild infection, these tips plus the application of a specialized antibiotic cream will be enough to relieve pain and heal your helix ear piercing. However, in more severe cases in which there is pain, pus or fever, it is essential that you go to the doctor. They will diagnose the problem and prescribe a more specific treatment such as antibiotics.
While this article is specifically on how to heal cartilage bumps or helix ear piercings, you can read more general information in our article on how long do piercings take to heal?
How to prevent helix ear piercings from getting infected
As we said above, the first stage of helix piercing infection prevention is going to a certified and well-reviewed piercing studio. However, there are other things you can do to help ensure the healing process goes smoothly (something we detail further in our piercing aftercare guide):
- Daily and specific hygiene: daily and specific hygiene is essential as a prevention measure. Wash your piercing at least twice a day with mild soap and warm water and always pat it dry so as not to hurt yourself. use clean gauze otherwise you can add bacteria to the wound at the final stage.
- Clean hands: before handling your piercing, make sure your hands are absolutely clean. We often take it for granted that our hands will not have microbes. However, touching the newly made piercing with dirty hands is one of the main reasons why it can become infected as bacteria is passed on.
- Be careful when sleeping: during the first few nights after getting your helix pierced, try not to sleep leaning on the side where you have the piercing. You could hurt yourself and wake up with intense discomfort on your ear.
- Avoid daily creams: avoid makeup or daily cream near the area. You can still use them on other parts of your face, but ensure they do not migrate to the piercing. These products can build up in the wound and help spread bacteria.
- Careful with headphones: you not only have to watch how you use headphones, but also with your cellphone in general. Do not use over-ear headphones which will put pressure on the helix piercing. Instead use inner-ear buds or use a speaker. If speaking on a cellphone, put it to your other ear.
- Tie your hair: having your hair tied up, without falling into your ears, will prevent the piercing from rubbing against the hair. You will also touch the ear much less if you don't play or fix your hair all the time.
Now you know how to heal a helix ear piercing specifically, you can learn some more general piercing care with our guide to treating an infected ear piercing.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Treat an Infected Helix Ear Piercing, we recommend you visit our Beauty & Personal Care category.