The risks of piercing baby's ears parents should know about

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Always be aware of the risks of any medical procedure, especially if it involves a child.

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? Is there a best time to pierce a child’s ear? These are some of the questions we’ll answer for you in this article.

 baby ear piercing infection

Is baby ear piercing infection something you’ve ever thought about?

When is the best time for a baby’s ears to be pierced?

The answer isn’t clear among paeditricians, either. However, here at theAsianparent, we thinks 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  Suzanne Rossi, a paediatrician, receives about ear-piercing by new parents during newborn wellness checks.

Dr Rossi 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.

 baby ear piercing infection

Baby ear piercing infection and other risks: How is ear-piercing done?

With ear-piercing, a 12-to-18 gauge needle is pricked through the child’s earlobe. A piece of jewellery is then placed into the resulting hole.

As ear-piercing involves penetrating the skin, a wound is produced. In general, the torn skin on the ear may lead to medical issues like:

  • Bleeding
  • 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 the earring or clip to become lodged into the ear.
  • Having an infection which 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 Rossi, 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.

Safety Tips To Keep In Mind

baby ear piercing infection

Do ensure that you choose a place well-known for piercing your child’s ears who employs well-trained professionals. | Image Source: Stock Photos

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. In Singapore, the risk of infection is very low, especially if a paediatrian does it for you. Still, it’s good to keep these safety tips in mind:

  • use gold earrings where possible. Jewellery made of gold can lessen the likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction and causing the pierced area to become inflamed. 
  • if the paediatrician 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.
  • help monitor the that the earring doesn’t get taken off. The earring should stay on the ear for four to six weeks, and should be softly turned daily.
  • 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.

Always remember to ask the paediatrician or clinic how to care for your baby’s piercing at home, including looking after a minor infection. 

Signs Of Baby Ear Piercing Infection

  • yellow, pus-like discharge
  • swelling
  • redness
  • ongoing pain or tenderness
  • itching and burning

When To See A Doctor

Please show your baby to a paediatrician immediately 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).

References: Journal 1, Journal 2hopkinsmedicine.org, Healthline

Originally published from The Asian Parent Singapore