Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ear Piercing - What's right for one isn't the answer for all!

I am often asked by parents when I think it is the right time to pierce ears on children. I have never read a scientifically based report on the best time - and never expect to! This is very much a parent / family decision.

Parents Magazine online recently posted Ear Piercing for Kids to address some of the common questions and answers. Some of these answers have scientific basis-- such as the type of metal-- most do not.

There is not one age that is "best" to pierce an ear. Many people go through life without ears pierced. Some cultures pierce ears in the newborn period. Some families have a guideline of 7 or 10 years old. Some kids want their ears pierced, but cannot due to sports that will not allow studs in during practice/games/competitions and new studs cannot be removed. Seasons overlap, so there is no 6 week period allowing studs to remain in place. (Some sports will allow studs to be covered with a band aide, but not all, so be sure to ask your team's rules before piercing!)

What is right? It depends on your culture and goals.

I have my personal opinions and fears.

I have seen infants pull earrings out, so I very much worry about damage to the earlobe and the choking risk of any jewelry on infants. My worry is not so strong to refuse to pierce infants-- I have many patient families who prefer to pierce ears in infancy for many reasons, and for many it is culturally based. I want to support other cultures, so have not tried to dissuade these families and most infants do very well with it. And if I do it for one, I should do it for all, right?

The infection risk mentioned in the article above for the first couple of months makes sense, but to stop that risk at 6 months seems premature to me. My reason: at 6 months babies spend a lot of time with their hands in their mouths, then they grab their ears. The mouth is a germy place, and to put the saliva all over the freshly pierced ear seems a risk to me.

On a technical note, I am more nervous piercing infant earlobes than bigger kids. Older children who want their ears pierced will usually sit still-- scared maybe, but still.  Infants must be held and they are typically crying when held. A small variance in positioning on a small earlobe can grow to a more noticeable difference as the earlobe grows. Bigger earlobes are easier to mark and position earrings symmetrically. I think this is a big issue for me because I do not like the angle of my earring holes. (This is why I rarely wear earrings. I had mine pierced initially at about 6 years, I think. They got infected and I had to let them close and then they were later re-pierced. I am not sure if the original hole made the 2nd piercing more difficult or not, but the angle makes the earrings too upright for my liking.)

The more I type, the more I think I should start trying to talk families into waiting...

What do you think?