Tragus piercings - cleaning, care, and jewelry

A tragus piercing is a piercing of the inner cartilage of the ear, just in front of the orifice. Because of its location, it can be especially difficult to clean, but if proper care is taken with it the problems shouldn�t be much more significant than those experienced with any cartilage piercing. The risk of infection with a tragus piercing, like that with any cartilage piercing, is somewhat higher than that of a lobe or other skin piercing because cartilage is avascular, meaning it has no blood supply. This makes it harder for the body to fight off infections at the site of the piercing and it also extends the healing period considerably. While a lobe piercing might take at most four to six weeks to heal, a cartilage piercing like a tragus piercing can take many months to heal entirely. Expect a period of at least two months (and sometimes as long as nine) before you can treat your tragus piercing as fully healed.

The amount of irritation and trauma placed on the site of the piercing is one of the biggest factors (aside from infection) in determining the duration of your healing period. Fortunately, the tragus is somewhat more secluded than the outer cartilage and doesn�t tend to become caught on clothes or hair. Unfortunately, it�s also closer to the ear cavity. Because of the wax buildup here, it may be more difficult to clean a tragus piercing depending upon the physiology of the individual. While ear wax, like any body oil, is not naturally unclean, it does tend to harbor bacteria and if it collects around the piercing excessively during the healing period it can become a problem. Take special note of this when cleaning your piercing.

The best time to clean a piercing is usually thought to be out of the shower. Encrusted discharge and the skin surrounding the piercing are softened by the steam and hot water, making it easier to rotate the jewelry and remove any excess material from the piercing. To clean your tragus piercing, dab or soak it with a sea salt solution or saline for a few minutes (generally optional) to soothe the wound and further soften the crusty bits. Use only sterile cotton balls. Washcloths and towels are home to many, many bacteria who would love to set up shop in your piercing. Discard the first cotton ball and use a drop or two of antibacterial soap (unscented, to avoid irritation and allergic reaction) on another, dampening it with water. Now dab the area around your piercing, rotating the jewelry to help disperse the antibiotic in the wound and to remove any excess discharge. Leave the soap on your piercing for one or two minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Dry the area with a clean tissue, not a towel!

Repeat this process twice a day for the first week and once thereafter until the piercing seems fully healed. If you find that the area becomes dry and irritated, clean less frequently or using a milder soap. Be sure to avoid exposure to sources of infection, like unclean bed sheets or pillow cases. Because it is difficult to bandage an ear piercing of any sort, you need to take special care to clean your linens before sleeping on them. Whenever possible, sleep on the opposite side of your piercing to avoid placing undue pressure upon it. Regular agitation of the piercing will lengthen the healing period considerably.

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