So you left your piercing studio with a fresh new ear piercing. You’re looking good and feeling great. You’ve done your aftercare research and you’re prepared to start the healing process.
Later, you’re out with friends.
“Are you ok?”, one asks as you feel a drop of moisture roll down your ear and towards your jaw. Reaching up, you wipe at it and discover it’s . . . . blood?!?
How did this happen? Should you be concerned? What do you do now?
We’re going to go through the reasons your new ear piercing may be bleeding, and what you can do about it, as well as discuss signs that your piercing is infected.
How normal is it for a new ear piercing to bleed?
First off, is it even normal for a new ear piercing to bleed? The answer is a resounding yes, especially in the first 24 hours after receiving the piercing. After all, you did just create an open wound by slicing through your flesh with a sharp needle. It’s natural for it to bleed at first before it gets a chance to heal.
Let’s briefly go through the stages of healing.
The first is the hemostasis and inflammatory stage, or swelling and redness. This stage peaks at about 24 to 48 hours after being pierced and is characterized by a red, swollen appearance. Your ear may feel hot and tender. Your body is working on clotting the wound and bringing immune cells to repair the tissue.
Next comes proliferation, or the dry skin and crust phase. Now your body is working on filling the wound with connective tissue and forming new blood vessels. This lasts for approximately 6 – 21 days. It’s common for your ear piercing to feel itchy or tight around the jewelry. This feeling can be eased by using warm sea salt soaks.
Finally, we have maturation or remodeling, lasting from 21 days up to 2 years. Your body is strengthening the tissue and regaining flexibility. This is the stage where you can change your jewelry.
Since your body is working on clotting the wound in the first phase, this is when it is most common and normal for your new ear piercing to bleed.
It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol after you get your piercing as that will cause your blood to thin and bleed more easily. Needless to say, you should also avoid drinking alcohol before getting your piercing. A reputable piercer will not perform a service if you’re inebriated. We advise not even drinking the night before the day of your piercing as that will still thin your blood. Give your body the best chance to heal your fresh piercing!
Here are some other situations that can cause it to bleed after the first 24 to 48 hours.
Knocking against the piercing can cause the clot to tear open and bleed. Avoid sports and any activity that can cause contact with your ear piercing. Do not sleep on the piercing. Be careful while styling your hair so that you don’t hit it with a brush. Don’t wear hats or helmets that press against it. It’s very fresh and delicate, so it’s especially important to protect it at this time.
Your piercing may bleed while cleaning. Be very gentle when cleaning so that you don’t pick off the scab. There’s no need to aggressively scrub the healing tissue. Use dabbing motions instead.
Follow proper piercing aftercare. Modern techniques do NOT advise twisting the jewelry as the piercing is healing. Avoid touching the piercing unless necessary. There’s even a term for this – LITHA. It stands for “Leave It The Hell Alone”. Your body is doing the healing; you just have to provide the proper environment. Let your body do its thing without poking, adjusting, or rubbing your piercing.
On that note, do not change your jewelry before the time frame advised by your piercer. It may be tempting to switch it out, but resist the urge! Even if the piercing looks healed on the surface, the tissue inside is not. Taking out your jewelry and inserting new jewelry before it has had a chance to heal completely will traumatize the wound and likely cause bleeding.
When you do switch your jewelry, make sure it’s the right size and weight. If the gauge of your jewelry is too large, you risk stretching the area too much will cause bleeding. This also happens with jewelry that is too heavy.
Your piercing can also be irritated and bleed if you are allergic to the material of your jewelry. Using implant-grade titanium while it is healing can help avoid this. When in doubt, consult your piercer to make sure your jewelry is appropriate for your piercing.
Of course, health conditions like a clotting disorder and medications such as blood thinners will cause your piercing to bleed more than normal. If you have a skin disorder such as psoriasis, you may experience a flare around the piercing area. The lesion can then start to crack and bleed.
If you have any health conditions like this, please consult a health care professional before getting any sort of piercing.
Should you be concerned?
If your piercing bleeds within the first 24 hours, there’s no need for concern. If you experience trauma to the area and it starts bleeding, that is to be expected and not a cause of concern either.
However, if you feel there is an excessive amount of bleeding or if the bleeding won’t stop, seek the advice of your piercer and/or a health care professional. You know your body best, so we can not give a definitive answer. If you feel something is off and the amount of blood is concerning, seek help.
What should you do if you are experiencing bleeding?
If you do experience bleeding in the first 14-48 hours, place a sterile piece of gauze on the area and apply direct pressure. The bleeding should stop shortly. If it doesn’t stop within 10 minutes, contact your doctor.
What are the signs your piercing is infected?
Redness, swelling, and a feeling of heat in the surrounding area are common 24-48 hours after getting a fresh piercing. if you experience these symptoms after that time frame, there’s a good chance your piercing is infected.
This can be accompanied by a thick yellow or greenish pus with a foul odor and bleeding from your piercing. You may experience excessive pain and tenderness as well.
Additionally, if you have a fever, chills, an upset stomach, or swollen lymph nodes – these are telltale signs of infection. If you have these symptoms, seek the care of a doctor immediately as the infection may have spread and be more serious.
If you see some slight redness and swelling and you’re unsure – a great tip is to take a photo with your phone. You’ll be able to monitor it for the next 1-2 days and tell if the redness is spreading or just temporary. If it does spread, consult your doctor.
Infections are common in piercings and many times are not a huge concern. Many can be treated and will resolve at home.
The best thing to try is a sea salt soak – sea salt is a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory that can help cleanse and soothe your piercing.
You just need 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon in 1 cup of warm water. Do not add more than that, as excess salt will irritate the wound further.
Soak sterile gauze into the solution and hold it against the piercing. Continue this for 5 minutes. Do not soak it too long as that can irritate it as well.
Repeat this process twice a day until the redness and swelling goes down.
You can also apply a hot compress to soothe the infected piercing. Run a washcloth under hot water (make sure it’s not painfully hot!) and press it to the area. Keep it there for 10 minutes and repeat it twice a day. The heat is essential as it helps to increase blood flow to the tissue and reduces pain and swelling.
Resist the urge to panic and remove your jewelry if you have an infection. This is one of the worst things you can do! You risk trapping the infection and spreading bacteria. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor. She may prescribe a round of antibiotics that will clear an infection up quickly.