What's the Right Age for Ear Piercing

There are two strong sides to the debate over the appropriate age for ear piercing.

Ear Piercing in Infancy
Ear piercing can be done during infancy, when any pain from the procedure will soon be forgotten by the child. Some parents choose this option because older children may develop anxiety about the procedure and refuse it.

Some parents choose infant ear piercing to make it easier for others to tell that a baby is a girl. Pediatricians caution that infants should have received two rounds of tetanus shots (by the age of 5 months) before the ears are pierced. This reduces the risk of life-threatening infections, which can occur even though they are rare. 

Ear piercing studs for babies should have clasps that screw on, and the earrings should be posts rather than hoops. Hoops could snag on toys or clothing, or be caught by the baby's finger and pulled, causing injury. Choose earring posts that are stainless steel or gold to avoid allergic reactions. Parents need to care for and disinfect the sites of the piercing to avoid infection and keep the new earrings in for six weeks. Should infection occur, treat it immediately with a healing ointment. Some doctor's offices specialize in infant piercing, which assures that a hygienic and experienced staff will do the procedure.

The arguments against infant ear piercings include a baby pulling on the earrings and injuring the ear or developing an infection. The clasps could fall off and the earring could fall out, creating a choking hazard. The clasps may also irritate the side of the baby's head behind the ear lobe.

Waiting to Pierce
Many parents believe that the child should be old enough to decide for herself (or himself) whether to get ear piercings. The child should also be old enough to care for the piercings properly. Parents should prepare the child to care for the ears after the procedure, and explain that it does hurt a little. The child needs to feel ready and willing to sit still for the piercing. Going to a business that specializes in children's piercings is advisable. Some of these places will have two staff work at once, piercing both earlobes at the same time so the child does not change her mind or wiggle after the first ear is done.

Self-piercing earrings are rare, and they get mixed reviews. They work by a gradually increasing pressure, pushing a needle into the ear lobe very slowly. It takes three to five days to complete the process, and some do find it painful. For some kids, there is an advantage to just getting it done quickly instead of using self-piercing earrings.

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