Have you thought about getting your baby’s ears pierced? Babies with earrings may be adorable, but piercing a baby’s ears is not advisable. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends delaying ear piercing until a child is old enough to care for a pierced ear properly. Neither ear piercing nor wearing earrings is considered safe for babies or young children.
Consider these possible dangers before you expose a baby or young child to ear piercing:
- Your child may have an allergic reaction to the metal posts of the earring.
- About one out of four pierced ears become infected. Before your child’s six-month immunizations, tetanus infection is an added danger.
- A baby with an infection may need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
- Young children are more likely to pull on an earring or snag an earring. This can cause the earring to pull through and tear the ear lobe.
- Ear piercing is one of the most common causes of deforming scars called keloids.
- The backings on the posts of the earrings can become embedded into the ear lobe skin.
Children with congenital heart diseases should avoid ear piercing. An infection could spread to the heart and be very serious. A child with a heart defect may need to be cleared by a doctor and may need to take antibiotics to prevent infection if ear piercing is considered.
Keloids are firm, rubbery, bulbous scars that can form on an ear lobe after ear piercing. A keloid can look like a grape or a small cauliflower hanging off the ear. I have had experience treating keloids when I was still doing ear surgery. They are a nightmare to treat. You can remove them surgically but they are likely to come back. You may need to remove then and then do frequent steroid injections. Other treatments include freezing then or radiating them. Long story short, prevention is the best treatment.
Keloids are more common in darker skinned people. African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic people are at higher risk. Your child may also be at higher risk if there is a family history of keloid scarring. Although keloids are less common in children, you should consider avoiding ear piercing at any age if you have a family history of keloids.
Piercing Ears Safely
When your child is old enough for pierced ears. This is how to do it safely:
- Have the piercing done by a health care professional who uses sterile technique and equipment. Try your pediatrician’s office first.
- Use only 14 to 24 karat gold earrings to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
- Avoid touching the ears or earrings except to clean the area.
- Wash hands before cleaning, use alcohol front, and back for cleaning. You may also use an antibiotic ointment.
- During each cleaning, rotate the earrings. Do the cleaning and rotating until the redness and swelling is gone, there is no crusting, and the earrings rotate easily. This may take 5 to 7 days.
- Avoid letting your child swim in pools, lakes, or ponds until healing is complete.
- Do not let your child wear dangling earrings. These can snag and tear the ear lobe. A torn, split earlobe needs to be surgically repaired. I have repaired many.
- Do not let your child have a piercing in any part of the ear where there is cartilage. If cartilage becomes infected, you could end up with a cauliflower ear.
- Call your child’s pediatrician if you see redness, swelling, or discharge after piercing. Call if your child has pain itching, or rash.
- Do not remove or change the earrings for about 6 weeks. Before this time, the holes may start to close and earrings may be hard to replace.
If you wait until your child is old enough, and take the right precautions, pierced ears can be safe and your child will be a bit more adorable. Babies and young children are very adorable without earrings, so why take the risk.