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Why Are My Pierced Ears Sore?

author image Maude Coffey
Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.
Why Are My Pierced Ears Sore?
woman with pierced ears Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Soreness, irritation and discomfort are possible symptoms for newly pierced ears or ear piercings that are healing. While you may immediately assume that an infection in your ear piercing is the cause for this discomfort, infection is rare if you have followed after-care guidelines for your ear piercing. See your doctor to accurately determine the cause of your soreness.


Swelling occurs with ear piercing, whether it is in your cartilage or your earlobes. An ear piercing is essentially a puncture wound. When the skin is punctured during the procedure, the skin around the wound reacts to the trauma by swelling. In healed ear piercings, swelling may occur if your ear piercing experienced trauma, such as ripping or tearing from being tugged by a washcloth or hairbrush. Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and pain in first-time and healed ear piercings.


Irritation in an initial ear piercing is normal during the healing period. For earlobe piercings, irritation is present for the first six to eight weeks during healing. Cartilage piercings have a longer healing period, lasting six months to one year, and you can experience irritation throughout that time. Yellow and white fluids may discharge onto your jewelry while an ear piercing is healing. Once the fluids dry, the fluids form into small, sharp crusts on your ear jewelry. If you rotate or spin your jewelry while the crusts are present, ripping and tearing of the inside of the piercing channel can occur. Not only will you experience the initial pain when rotating a crust into the piercing channel, soreness may continue for several days afterward. Because of this pain and the risk of ripping and tearing your ear piercing, clean the crust off your earrings before you rotate them.

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Infection of your ear piercings is a possibility if your ears are sore during the healing process. Infection occurs in ear piercings from disease or bacteria-laden piercing needles. If you introduce bacteria into your ear piercings with poor aftercare or touching the piercing with dirty hands, this may also cause infection.

Infection in an ear piercing is distinctively different from normal irritation during the healing process. Fever, chills and nausea may accompany a discharge from your ear piercings that is green or gray with a foul odor. Coupled with severe pain and swelling, symptoms of an infection in your ear piercing could also include red streaks coming from the ear piercing hole. Immediately consult your doctor if you suspect you have an infection.

Jewelry Size

The size of your jewelry can attribute to soreness or irritation in your ear piercing. The thickness of your ear is assessed prior to piercing to determine the room needed to accomodate swelling and exuding of fluids during the healing process. If the jewelry is too small, you may feel a pinching or tight feeling in and around your ear piercing.

Jewelry Material

Allergic reaction or sensitivity to the metal that your ear piercing jewelry is made of can cause soreness. Implant-grade stainless steel, titanium and niobium are the safest materials to place in your ear piercings for jewelry. Gold and platinum jewelry are also safe for ear piercings if the quality is at least 14 carats. Inappropriate jewelry, such as a metal that is high in nickel content or plated metals, can irritate your ear piercings, causing a rash and the piercing entry hole to enlarge.

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