Ear piercing is a common cultural practice but when deciding on whether or not to have your child get pierced ears or when it is age appropriate can be challenging. I would not recommend rushing this decision and just getting it done someday when walking by the local Claire’s.
Let’s start with when to get it done. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced ears. When my oldest daughter had hers done she had to clean the area and twist the earrings multiple times a day. We also had to time it with her sports activities because in some sports the participant is not allowed to wear earrings on the playing field. Despite her doing a great job I still had to be involved, sometimes helping her put in new earrings or checking for infection. If your child is not ready for this then know that it will be up to you to make sure all the steps are taken care of daily.
What are the risks? Trauma, infection, allergies and scar tissue. Trauma occurs when an earring is accidentally pulled out or the back of the earring gets stuck in the tissue of the ear. This typically happens when the ear lobe is inflamed and swollen. This is where the twisting of the earring and inspection of the area come into play; again, I had to help my daughter with this – it’s hard to see the back of your own ear. Infection can occur with poor care of the area, not cleaning it well. Allergies can occur as well and are most commonly due to nickel. Nickel allergies are increasing world wide and in one study 26% of those tested had an allergy to nickel. This will mean you have to buy more expensive jewelry and possibly visit the doctor to see why the skin around the ear is so raw and red. Lastly the ear lobe is a common location for scarring, or Keloid formation, to occur. Families with a history of this type of scar may want to discuss this with the medical provider before getting their ears pierced.
Where do we go? Claire’s is the most well known location in the Twin Cities to get it done. They use a sterile technique and a spring-loaded gun. No matter where you actually choose to go, visit several places first and ask to observe how they perform the piercing. You are looking for a clean environment, sterile technique including the use of disposable gloves and sterile, disposable needles. The ear lobe should be cleaned with alcohol or antimicrobial solution. The location should give good aftercare instructions.
There is really is no right or wrong answer as to when, or even if, your child gets pieced ears. It can be a great way to give your child some self expression and creativity. For others it’s just not something they need or want. Personally, I waited until I was in my 20’s to get my ears pierced. Why? It just wasn’t something I was interested in doing until then.