Thinking of getting your little girl’s ears pierced? Before you make the decision, here are some baby ear piercing infections and risks you should know about.
What can you read in this article?
- When to pierce baby’s ears
- Baby ear piercing infection and risks
- Baby ear piercing tips
In Asia, it’s very common — in fact, almost the norm — to pierce baby girls’ ears. Sometimes this is even done very soon after birth. But like everything that is accepted as the norm, it’s good to question both risks and benefits.
Is it really okay to pierce a baby’s ears as a newborn? What about baby ear piercing infection? When is the best time to pierce a baby’s ears? These are some of the questions we’ll answer for you in this article.
Is baby ear piercing infection something you’ve ever thought about?
Baby ear piercing – how is it done?
Baby ear piercing is done the same way as adult ear piercing, the only difference is that it is usually done by a pediatrician. But the procedure is the same – a 12-to-18 gauge needle is pricked through the child’s earlobe. A piece of jewelry is then placed into the resulting hole.
Baby ear infection and other risks
Unfortunately, just with any piercings, the procedure comes with some discomfort, which babies won’t understand. But the pain is actually the least of your problems. The first thing you need to worry about is the possibility of your baby developing an infection from it.
While a baby ear piercing infection is rare, it can still happen and could cause a fever in your baby. And although fevers are usually the body’s way of fighting an infection, it quickly becomes serious for babies under 3 months. Your newborn’s ability to fight an infection is small because her immune system is still developing.
If your newborn (or a child younger than 3 months) gets an infection with a fever, it is considered a medical emergency and they would have to be admitted to the hospital. Would you be willing to risk that just so your baby can have earrings she doesn’t really care for at the time anyway?
Signs of baby ear piercing infection
However, you shouldn’t wait until your baby has a fever to act on it. Be on the lookout for these symptoms after your baby had her ears pierced:
- yellow, pus-like discharge
- ongoing pain or tenderness
- itching and burning
Aside from the infection, which in itself is a valid cause to worry, baby ear piercing also comes with other risks. Because ear piercing involves penetrating the skin, a wound is produced. In general, the torn skin on the ear may lead to medical issues like:
- An allergic reaction as the needle touches the skin
- Disfiguring the ear, which happens frequently when higher parts of the ear are pierced.
- The wound recovering, which causes the earring or clip to become lodged into the ear.
- Having an infection that releases pus. Infections occur in roughly 24% of ear piercings.
- Developing keloids*, a harmless skin condition where scarred tissue grows over a wound that’s healed.
According to Suzanne Rossi, a pediatrician, a study conducted in 2005 showed that most patients suffered from keloids when their ears were pierced while they were at least 11 years old. The scientists in the 2005 study had one core piece of advice to people who are vulnerable to keloids (either from previous occurrences or by tracking the family tree).
People at risk of keloids should not have their ears pierced, or if impossible, have their ears pierced when they’re younger than 11-years-old.
What’s more, parents with children who have congenital heart disease (CHD) may have to think twice about getting an ear piercing. This is because people with CHD who acquire infections can experience much more serious consequences.
So much so that, in another study, 53% of medical personnel who were looking after patients affected by CHD frowned upon ear-piercing. Many of these medical professionals would also have advised antibiotic shots after getting an ear piercing.
Image from Shutterstock
When to pierce baby’s ears?
My daughters’ pediatrician advised me to wait until my baby is 4 months old before we have her ears pierced so that her earlobes have already expanded and the piercing will be in a good place (not off-center, which can happen if you have it done too early).
However, some moms prefer to have it done at a younger age, which lessens the possibility of the infant picking on her ears.
So, when is the best time to pierce your baby’s ears then? The answer isn’t clear among pediatricians, either. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t have a firm stance on the matter. However, they concede that piercings are safe at any age as long as it is performed with sterile equipment and techniques. In addition, the parent or other caregiver must be consistent with aftercare to ensure that the piercings heal properly.
Experts recommend waiting until your child has received two tetanus shots, which is around 4 months old.
However, here at theAsianparent, we think it’s best to wait until your child receives at least her six-month vaccinations. That way, you’re reducing the possibility of tetanus and other blood-borne infections.
“When can I have my child’s ears pierced? Are there any risks involved?” These are common queries that Dr. Rossi receives about ear-piercing by new parents during newborn wellness checks. She wanted to find out more so she dived into the scientific literature about ear-piercing. Shockingly, she discovered that there hasn’t been substantial research about ear-piercing infants.
However, she does note one solid guideline by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The suggestion, which according to Rossi is “clearly the best way to reduce the risk of baby ear piercing infection” is to only pierce a child’s ears once they know how to look after the wound independently.
When is it okay to pierce Baby’s Ear? Here are 5 things you need to consider
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Baby ear piercing safety tips to keep in mind
Knowing the risks with baby ear piercing, you are now better informed to get it done safely, if this is something you choose to do.
One of the first things you should consider is the healing period after the piercing is done. How long does baby ear piercing take to heal?
According to a related article, healing of a piercing can vary from person to person and the type of piercing done. Usually, a new earlobe piercing will heal in 6-12 weeks, However, one astonishing fact about ear piercings is that it closes down quicker when it’s new.
“If you have a brand new piercing, your hole can close in a few hours. When you create a hole in your ear, your immune system kicks into gear and tries to heal and repair that hole,” said Lisa Bubbers, CEO of Studs, an earring and piercing company in New York.
For this reason, it is recommended that you keep the baby’s new earrings in at least six weeks to give it time to heal. And also avoid going any longer than 24 hours without wearing earrings for the first 6 months of a new piercing to prevent the hole from closing.
Here are some more baby ear piercing tips to reduce the risk of baby ear piercing infection and ensure your child’s safety:
- Always choose a reputable place to do your ear-piercing. Ensure that an experienced professional is piercing your child’s ear in the cleanest condition possible. The best person to do it is, of course, your child’s pediatrician.
- Use gold earrings whenever possible. Jewelry made of gold can lessen the likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction and causing the pierced area to become inflamed.
- Avoid costume jewelry and big earrings for the time being. Your daughter can experiment with those when she’s old enough. If gold earrings are unavailable, use sterilized hypoallergenic earrings that are made for babies. If your child’s pediatrician does ear piercings, chances are she has a few pairs available for sale.
- Be diligent with the after-care instructions. If the pediatrician or clinic gives you an antibiotic cream, apply it religiously to the wound as per their instruction. This will lessen the likelihood of an infection.
- Gently turn or rotate the earrings twice daily.
Always remember to ask the pediatrician or clinic how to care for your baby’s piercing at home, including looking after a minor infection.
When to see a doctor
Don’t hesitate to consult your child’s doctor if:
- The earring doesn’t move.
- The earring clasp is embedded in the skin.
- The infection doesn’t improve with home treatment within two days.
- Your baby gets a fever.
- The infection spreads beyond the piercing site (indicated by redness).
Do ensure that you choose a place well-known for piercing your child’s ears who employs well-trained professionals. | Image Source: Stock Photos
Republished with permission from The Asian Parent Singapore
Updates by Camille Eusebio
Journal 1, Journal 2, hopkinsmedicine.org, Healthline
Here at theAsianparent Philippines, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advise or medical treatment. TheAsianparent Philippines is not responsible to those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend to consult your doctor for clearer information.