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How Do I Treat a Swollen Ear Lobe?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The best way to treat a swollen ear lobe depends on what's causing the swelling. Inflammation caused by piercings or insect stings can generally be brought down with certain household items and Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications, while more serious conditions like infections or boils may need prescription medication. If your ear is very painful or doesn't get better after a few days, you should seek medical attention to prevent the possibility of a permanent deformity or deafness. Insect bites, infections, boils, ear piercings, allergic reactions, and trauma from contact sports can cause swollen ear lobes. We will also discuss prevention tips.

Insect Bites

Swelling caused by a bite or sting on the ear lobe from an insect or spider can usually be treated at home. You should first wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water, and then apply an antiseptic, like hydrogen peroxide. After this, apply a cold compress to the ear as needed, and take painkillers to deal with any discomfort.

If the ear is very inflamed, then you may need to take an antihistamine as well. Antihistamines block a naturally occurring substance your body produces called histamine, which is responsible for expanding blood vessels in your body. The expanded blood vessels cause swelling to protect your body from infections.

Piercings

Swelling is normal after getting a piercing, especially if you sleep on your newly pierced ear, but you can reduce it by keeping pressure off of the ear. You should also keep the ear clean, and use salt-water compresses to prevent infection. If your ear lobe is painful, you can take OTC pain relievers and use a numbing gel or spray.

Infected ear piercings can even happen once new piercings have healed. Continue to clean your ears regularly after your new piercings heal. Refrain from wearing the same earrings for a long time. Give your ears time to breathe by leaving them in for a few days and leaving them out for a couple of days. 


If you are wearing fake earrings, take them out when you take a shower or do a water sport. When you take showers, swim in pools or lakes, and go about your daily routine, bacteria can build up between the ear lobes and the earrings inside of them. 


Untreated infected earlobes can lead to pus secreting from the pierced area and even a systemic infection. The infection in your ear can spread to the rest of your body and cause fever and other viral symptoms. 

Upper Ear Piercings

Upper ear piercings have a higher likelihood of infection than traditional piercings in the middle of your ear lobes. The pinna is the part of your ear where most upper ear piercings are, which has more difficulty healing than your ear lobe. 

The pinna is a part of the auricular cartilage, which does not have as many blood vessels as other parts of the earlobe. You may experience a minor infection from touching your piercing with dirty hands or the general bacteria in the environment. An uncontained minor infection can worsen and form into necrosis, an abscess, or perichondritis

If you notice fluid draining from your ear piercing and puffy redness around it, it can be perichondritis. Oral or intravenous antibiotics can tame the infection.

Infections and Boils

Several different infections can cause a swollen ear lobe, including an infected piercing, an ear infection, and boils or cysts. If this is the case, then your ear will generally be red and inflamed, and may leak pus or other fluids. You may also have pain in your inner ear and a fever. To treat swelling caused by an infection or a boil or cyst, you'll generally need to see a healthcare professional to get antibiotics to take care of the infection or have him or her remove the boil. You should not try to drain a boil or cyst by yourself, since you could cause it to burst and spread infectious material throughout your ear.

Trauma

Trauma caused by a direct blow is one of the most common causes of a swollen ear lobe, especially in people who play contact sports. To treat this kind of injury, ice the ear with an icepack or plastic bag of ice wrapped in a towel and take OTC painkillers. If the ear is very swollen, red, purple, or white, then you should see a healthcare professional immediately, since this could lead to a permanent deformity called cauliflower ear or a loss of hearing.

The condition makes your ear look like a cauliflower. Doctors will have to insert a needle in your ear to drain out blood that has accumulated from the repeated blows to your ear. 

Cauliflower ear can also happen from having upper ear piercings, so consult your doctor if you play contact sports and consider getting one of these piercings, too.

Allergic Reactions

You may also get a swollen ear lobe because of an allergic reaction to something that touches your ear, like a soap, shampoo, or an earring. In this case, the best treatment is to remove the source of the allergy — for instance, if you are allergic to nickel then you should take out any earrings containing it — and then treat the symptoms with cold compresses and OTC painkillers. This should reduce the swelling within a few days, but if it doesn't, then you should see a healthcare professional for a prescription for antihistamine.

Prevention

Though you can't prevent all the things that can cause swelling, you can often avoid a swollen ear lobe by only wearing jewelry that's made with precious metals, like gold or silver.

Do not wear earrings with nickel as it can cause allergies. 

Contact dermatitis occurs when someone with a nickel allergy is exposed to the metal through earrings, coins, zippers, and other things. Your ears may feel puffy, warm, and red when you wear earrings with nickel in them. 

Go To Retailers That Use Sterile Equipment

You should also only get piercings from reputable places that use sterile equipment, and clean your earrings regularly. When you look for retailers that pierce ears, research their website for quality standards. If the retailer’s website has a section about their sterile piercing application practices and how to care for your ears post-piercing, consider this business over one that does not mention this information. 

Regularly Clean Your Ears

Regularly cleaning your ears is a regular prevention tactic you can do to reassure that they do not become infected. Get in the routine of cleaning your ears daily much like you brush your teeth every day to prevent cavities and tooth decay. 

Clean your ears regularly to prevent bacteria build-up by: 

  • Wash your ears twice a day with mild, anti-microbial soap. 
  • Use a gentle cleanser such as rubbing alcohol or petroleum jelly to lubricate the pierced area. 
  • Use a saline solution to clean the piercings. 

Ear Protection During Contact Sports

If you play contact sports, wearing a helmet or earguard while playing can help prevent trauma-related problems. 

Wearing both equipment simultaneously can reduce the likelihood of ear trauma

Even if you wear this equipment, depending on the severity of the contact sport, your ear may still suffer injury or trauma.

If you notice swelling or redness on your outer ear after playing football, doing boxing, or another high-contact sport, consult with your doctor immediately to see what treatment is necessary. Proactiveness is the greatest prevention tactic to prevent swollen ear lobes as an athlete. 

Final Thoughts

Insect bites, ear piercings, trauma from contact sports, infections and boils, and allergic reactions can cause swollen ear lobes. Take preventative measures such as regularly cleaning your ears and protecting them when playing contact sports. If unexpected occurrences such as allergic reactions or infections and boils happen, seek treatment immediately to prevent a systemic infection from forming.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon994640 — On Feb 24, 2016

I got a spider bite three years ago and got swollen took benadryl and was fine. Since the spider bite, my ear lobes continue to get red and swollen. What can or should I do?

By anon976165 — On Oct 31, 2014

I had the same problem and I had mine pierced two years ago using an earring. It is swollen a bit and hurts. Sometimes I use vinegar to try to soothe it.

By anon322835 — On Mar 01, 2013

My ear hurts and is red and swollen. I can't hear out of the ear itself. What do I have?

By anon298255 — On Oct 19, 2012

Help! How can I get rid of a swollen earlobe? I got my second piercing three days ago and now one of them is swollen, red and hurts! It is very painful and I don't know what to do! It hasn't gone down all day.

By anon203802 — On Aug 06, 2011

does anyone know what would cause the upper earlobe of a five year old to swell?

By anon161814 — On Mar 21, 2011

well i had my second cartilage pierced and my ear just was swollen this morning. i bought some isopropyl alcohol to see if it helps but it kind of got the pain to relax but it's still swollen. It doesn't itch but it's red and way bigger than my other ear. should i put something cold on it?

By anon140244 — On Jan 06, 2011

to galen84basc: This is what happened to my son when i adopted him from africa and he had malaria. see a doctor immediately before it gets worse, because it definitely will. --bri

By anon135696 — On Dec 20, 2010

i got my ears pierced about four years ago but now my earlobe is really swollen and my earring is stuck in my ear and i can't get it out. I don't know what to do!

By anon124824 — On Nov 07, 2010

my lower earlobes are somewhat swollen when compared, but no signs of irritation,itch or anything. I just realized that they seemed a bit swollen compared to other people's earlobes. Any recommendation appreciated. Omar

By naturesgurl3 — On Jul 26, 2010

One trick that is an oldie but a goodie for a mild ear piercing infection or an earlobe swollen from a bug bite is to just hold a piece of ice on the lobe.

That will cool it down and numb the pain.

However, like the article says, if the earlobe worsens or starts draining pus, see a doctor right away.

By CopperPipe — On Jul 26, 2010

@galen84basc -- It sounds like an inner ear infection to me -- that could cause the dizziness, which would in turn contribute to nausea.

While those usually go away with antibiotics, I would tell your friend to see a doctor anyway, especially since he's been out of the country.

Ear health can be tricky -- it's not something you want to fool around with. Get him to check it out ASAP.

By galen84basc — On Jul 26, 2010

I have a friend who recently got back from South America and is now experiencing nausea, dizziness, and, bizarrely, a swollen earlobe.

Does anybody know what could have caused this, or what he should do about it?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Writer

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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