Ear Piercing and Children: Infection is a Risk

With teenagers piercing so many different parts of their body these days, ear piercing seems routine by comparison. Still, there are some guidelines to follow concerning ear piercing and children.

As a general rule of thumb, wait until your child is old enough to take care of the pierced site herself. A very young child may pull out her earrings, which can pose a choking hazard. Also, a younger child may not understand the need to keep a new
piercing site clean.

If you feel your young baby must have pierced ears, at least wait until she is at least 3-5 months old, so that she has a few tetanus shots under her belt. Tetanus is not too common, but it can enter the body through punctures – like earring holes.

Explain to your child that ear piercing does hurt, but only for an instant. Your child may not like the look of the “gun” used to pierce ears, so be prepared to ask the person doing the piercing to stand behind the child or away from nearby mirrors.

Then make sure the ear piercing is done by a doctor, nurse or experienced professional, using a round post earring made of pure gold or stainless steel, to reduce the risk of allergic reaction. All tools should be sterilized and “single-service”, meaning the needle gets used on only one person and then discarded. Make sure the staff cleans their work surface with disinfectant, washes their hands before piercing and wears a new pair of latex gloves for each client. Also, watch to see if ear-piercing studs are kept in sterile, single-use containers.

After the piercing, apply rubbing alcohol or an antibiotic ointment to the area two or more times a day for several days. Don’t remove her earrings for four to six weeks, but do show her how to gently rotate them each day. If your child’s ear becomes red, tender, or looks infected, see your pediatrician as soon as possible.

If your child is older, he or she may ask for multiple piercings, especially in the cartilage of the upper ear. This area is painful to pierce, heals slowly and is prone to infection. Tongue piercings are also prone to infection and can damage teeth. Other body parts are not appropriate for piercing in children either. Piercings in the belly button, nose, eyelids, genitals and other parts of the body can lead to infection, scarring, bleeding and nerve damage.

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