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When Can I Pierce a Baby’s Ears?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 14, 2021

Many people pierce their baby’s ears while they're still toddlers. This can be quite a controversial topic depending on where you come from. Some people see nothing wrong with it, while others do not agree with the practice. Before making up your mind to pierce your baby’s ears, you must understand the risks involved and the safety measures you should take.

When Can Babies Get Their Ears Pierced?

There is really no specific recommendation for getting your baby’s ears pierced. It depends on what you want for your child. You can consult with your pediatrician on whether to pierce your baby’s ears, but many recommend that your baby is at least three months old.

Some people pierce their kids' ears during infancy while others will wait until the child is mature enough to take care of the piercing site. Piercings are not more harmful to babies than they are to adults, and any complications of an ear piercing are not determined by age. They can happen to people of all ages.

It can be a good idea to wait until your baby receives their tetanus vaccine to get their ears pierced. Other vaccines do not protect your child against the germs associated with an ear piercing. Tetanus infections themselves are not common and the risk of getting tetanus from an earlobe piercing is small. However, it's still important to be proactive about your child's health.

Ear Piercing Safety for Babies

Here are some safety tips to consider when taking your child to get ear piercings:

  • Avoid piercing a newborn: If you pierced a newborn (or a child younger than three months) and they got an infection with a fever, they would have to be admitted to the hospital. To avoid this, it is safe to wait a little longer.
  • Use the right earrings: Pick earrings that will not cause an allergic reaction. A good example of a hypoallergenic material is sterling silver or gold.
  • Use sterile equipment: Ensure that the person doing the piercing is qualified and using sterilized equipment.
  • Keep new earrings in for at least six weeks: Do not change or remove earrings during this time. It allows the wound to heal first. Until the six weeks are over, you should clean the site regularly to prevent infection.
  • Get advice: Ask your piercer for some tips on how to care for the piercing site and what you should expect after the piercing process.
  • Look out for infection: Signs that may indicate an infection include puss, pain, redness, and swelling for over 24 hours after piercing.

 If you’ve already gotten your infant or toddler's ears pierced, here are some things worth noting:

  • Allergies: Some children are allergic to gold and nickel, which are common materials for earrings. Watch out for signs of an allergic reaction (itching, swelling, and reddening of the skin around the wound). Remove the earrings immediately if you notice these signs.
  • Aftercare and cleaning: You should always clean and disinfect the piercing site to help heal the wound quickly.
  • Do not pierce the ear cartilage: Piercing the cartilage may cause a more serious infection than piercing the lobe.
  • Avoid jewelry that dangles: Dangling earrings can easily get caught on clothes and bedding. Also, your baby may pull them out and end up swallowing them.
  • Pain relief: Piercing the ear lobe can be painful. Some pain medication may be recommended if it becomes too much for your baby.

Possible Complications of Piercing a Baby’s Ears

If a piercing is not done correctly, the piercing site may fail to heal and instead develop some complications. Some of the possible complications include:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction
  • Formation of keloids
  • Bleeding
  • Ear tearing 
  • Auricle (visible part of the ear) deformation
  • Embedded backings

Causes of infections. Infections may occur in the piercing site shortly after piercing or even long after healing. The following factors can cause infections in a pierced ear:

  • Using unsterilized tools 
  • Not keeping the piercing site clean
  • Touching the ears with dirty hands
  • Tight earrings
  • Changing or removing earrings before healing
  • Tearing or breaking of the skin of the ear channel
  • Not taking out the earrings when going to sleep (after they are healed)
  • Entering an earring at the wrong angle
  • Posts made of nickel

Things to Consider When Getting Your Baby's Ears Pierced

While it may not be wrong to have your baby’s ears pierced in their first years of life, it is ideal to wait until they can play an active role. A child younger than four years is not in a position to take care of a piercing on their own. 

Young children can end up touching their ears with dirty hands, which can lead to infections. An older kid will have more discipline to avoid playing with pierced ears since they are more aware of what is going on.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

ChildrensMD: "Ear Piercings for Babies | A Cultural Controversy."

Children's Hospital Colorado: "Ear Piercing Symptoms."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "The Risks of Infant Ear Piercing."

Riley Children's Health: "Ear Piercing For Kids: Safety Tips From a Pediatrician."

Two Peds in a Pod: "When can I get my child’s ears pierced?."

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