A true infection, on the other hand, happens when bacteria enters the piercing site (via masks, headphones, headbands, glasses, etc.). “We don’t want those items that are resting in, on, or around the ears to introduce bacteria to the site of your new piercings,” notes registered nurse Samantha Alvarado, R.N., head of nurse training at Rowan. In some cases, it can result in fever, chills, and drainage—more severe symptoms that require a trip to the doctor. 

Because a piercing is technically classified as a puncture wound (albeit a tiny one), healing rates do vary from person to person—and thus, some people experience more irritation than others. For example, you might overcome the tenderness around the six-month mark, while someone else with an identical piercing may still notice swelling or itching after a year. Everyone’s ear anatomy is different. 

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