As someone who didn’t have her ears pierced until age 14, I was way behind the other girls my age in this rite of passage. In fact, many girls I knew had their ears pierced as infants. I thought my mother was just being overly strict at the time, but after finding out what’s entailed in keeping them clean and infection-free, I understand why she wanted to wait until I was old enough to take on the responsibility myself. After-all, being able to delegate is an important part of raising four rambunctious kids.
But if your little girl or boy isn’t willing to wait until teenager-hood to get ear piercings, be sure you’re willing and able to keep an eye on them before you take the plunge. Here’s what you need to know about ear piercings for kids:
- While it’s a personal decision, experts advise waiting until an infant is six months old before piercing her ears, as the pierced skin increases the opportunity for infection and infants’ immune systems are still developing.
- If you want your child to make the decision herself, age 10 is a good time to begin the conversation.
- To reduce the pain, your doctor can prescribe a topical numbing cream with lidocaine that should be applied in a thick coat 30 to 60 minutes before the piercing. Icing the earlobes 15 to 30 minutes prior may also help, but your child will feel some pain no matter what precautions you take.
- To decrease the potential for allergic reaction, choose earrings and posts made of surgical stainless steel because they don’t contain nickel or any alloys. Other good options are platinum, titanium, and 14K gold.
- In choosing a place, it’s worth first asking if your pediatrician or dermatologist performs piercings. If not, ask your doctor and friends for recommendations of where to go. Then, be sure the person doing the piercing has at least a years’ experience of multiple piercings daily and takes the following steps: washes her/his hands or uses antibacterial hand gel, puts on new gloves, cleans your child’s earlobes with an alcohol pad, and takes an individual sterile ear piercer out of its previously unopened packaging in front of you for each ear.
- Afterwards, be sure that you (or your child) wash your hands with soap before handling the ears, then clean the front and back of the earrings twice a day by using a cotton ball or pad that’s been dipped in rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or cleaning solution provided by the piercer. The earrings should also be slid back and forth multiple times a day in order to allow the piercing to maintain its shape. The first pair of earrings should not be too tight and should not be taken out at all before six weeks pass. After six weeks, the first pair should be replaced by another pair, and earrings should be worn continuously for six months to prevent the holes from closing.
- Keep an eye out for these signs of infection: redness, swelling, drainage, pain, tenderness, or itching. Your doctor can determine whether this is an allergic reaction, which would require removing the earrings, or an infection that can be treated with antibiotics. If it’s an allergic reaction, the earrings must be removed right away and the ears should not be re-pierced for at least six months. Infections and allergic reactions also increase the chance that keloid tissue (a thick scar tissue) will develop.
- When your child plays sports, you may want to cover the piercings with bandages – particularly when they’re new.
At what age did you allow your child to have his/her ears pierced? Share with us below.