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EAR PIERCING TOO EARLY CAN BE RISKY

     Home  >  Articles  > Family Health/Fitness/Safety
by Denise Mann

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It may be tempting to pierce your little girl’s ears in her first few weeks of life. This way, she won’t remember the pain. And just think how cute and pretty your little angel will look in a pair of gold studs.

Think again, warns Kenneth Gottesman, M.D., an attending pediatrician at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. Dr. Gottesman says he sees too many parents rushing to pierce their children’s ears before they reach 2 months of age (and receive their first set of immunizations). This practice, he says, sets infants up for complications, including risk of serious tetanus infections.

What’s more, he adds, “I don’t think as many people are aware of this as they should be. I see it about 15-20 times a year in a clinic population; it may be due to a lack of some knowledge or there may be some cultural aspect, as this may be how they do it on the islands.

“Parents need to make sure that ear piercing is not done until their child gets at least one, if not two, series of immunizations, “ Dr. Gottesman says. “Wait until the child is older, so they have a bigger earlobe — and then make it a birthday present.”

Doing it earlier increases the risk of infection, he says. “The main danger is that a lot piercings are done in jewelry stores, in malls, and I’m not sure how qualified everyone who does the process is.”

Even under good conditions, plain old infection or skin contamination causing skin infection can occur, and an infant’s ability to handle any kind of infection is not the same as even a several-month-old child, he warns. “You would think that if the ear got red and swollen and there was pus at the earring site that a parent would notice and take the child for appropriate medical care,” says Dr. Gottesman, adding that Infections are typically caught in time, but it’s possible that things can proceed more quickly.

Infant ear piercing trend grows

“It’s a far more common practice than I would have thought,” says John Belko, M.D., chief of pediatric infectious disease at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. “About one-third of parents have their kids’ ears pierced within the first weeks of life. It used to occur more when kids were 8-10 years of age. Now most parents wait until their kids are age 1 or 2, but doing it before 6 months of age is just asking for trouble,” he says.

So when is the best time? “My overall preference is to wait until the immune system is fully mature, at 2 years old or later,” Dr. Belko says.

Serious infections may lead to loss of ear lobes

“The younger the child, the more aggressive the infection, and if you pierce through vital cartilage and don’t take proper care, it can get infected and destroy the tissue. The child may lose a piece of ear lobe as a result,” Dr. Belko says.

Another danger, he warns, is that babies are hard to control and can roll off the bench. “Usually we see one or two accidents a year as a result,” he says.

When getting your child’s ears pierced, make sure the practitioner cleans the ear lobes well and that the equipment is properly taken care of, he suggests.

“Try to stay away from places that do them in mass production with a big gun, and choose a place where there is an area separated out from the area of business to give privacy and cleanliness,“ Dr. Belko suggests. “Also, look to make sure that the person who is doing it looks well-kempt themselves and has some experience.”

FAST FACTS

From the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5—4th Edition”:

—As a general guideline, postpone the piercing until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself.

—For the actual piercing procedure, have a doctor, nurse or experienced technician perform it. Rubbing alcohol or other disinfectants should be used to minimize the chances of an infection.

—A round, gold-post earring should be inserted; the gold in the posts will reduce the risk of an allergic reaction and inflammation in the area.

—After the piercing, apply rubbing alcohol or an antibiotic ointment to the area two times a day for a few days; these applications will cut down the chances of infection and hasten the healing process. The earring should not be removed for four to six weeks, but should be gently rotated each day.

—If the area of piercing becomes red or tender, an infection may be developing, and you should seek medical attention promptly.

FAST FACTS

From the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5—4th Edition”:

—As a general guideline, postpone the piercing until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself.

—For the actual piercing procedure, have a doctor, nurse or experienced technician perform it. Rubbing alcohol or other disinfectants should be used to minimize the chances of an infection.

—A round, gold-post earring should be inserted; the gold in the posts will reduce the risk of an allergic reaction and inflammation in the area.

—After the piercing, apply rubbing alcohol or an antibiotic ointment to the area two times a day for a few days; these applications will cut down the chances of infection and hasten the healing process. The earring should not be removed for four to six weeks, but should be gently rotated each day.

—If the area of piercing becomes red or tender, an infection may be developing, and you should seek medical attention promptly.

 

 


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