Ear piercings are a beauty norm in American culture, but how young is too young to receive them?
Just this summer, mother Susan Ingram began a campaign to capture thousands of signatures to put a ban on piercings for babies and toddlers in the U.K. Are the pain and risks high enough to warrant a ban?
Susan Clay-Hufford, MD, a pediatrician with ProMedica Physicians, said that generally speaking, ear piercings are a very safe procedure. However, there are some risks and recommendations that parents need to consider.
“Babies could get an infection more easily since their immune system isn’t developed very well,” explains Dr. Clay-Hufford. Also, if the earlobes are too small, it’s possible that there could be some ripping, depending on the size of the earring. In addition to the earring size, the material is also a risk factor.
“You have to get a certain type of metal – gold, platinum, titanium, non-allergenic – so you don’t get swollen earlobes and an infection,” says Dr. Clay-Hufford.
“Cheap” earrings, such as stainless steel earrings, are more likely to cause infection. Granulation tissue may also form as the body tries to push the foreign metal out by creating extra cells.
To avoid these risks, Dr. Clay-Hufford suggests having a piercing done in a commercial store, in a regulated parlor or at your doctor’s office. She herself offers some piercings at her pediatric office at Toledo Peds. “I’ve pierced ears at my office because I know it’s clean, safe and I know what I’m using,” she says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that there is little risk when piercings are “performed carefully and cared for conscientiously”, no matter the age of the child. However, the Academy does recommend as a general guideline that parents wait until children are mature enough to care for the pierced site herself.
Dr. Clay-Hufford generally waits until patients are at least four months old, for two reasons: “The ear lobe is bigger, so it’s easier to get a good piercing, and because they’ve had two sets of vaccinations.”
Regardless of age, she recommends that parents seek the guidance of their pediatrician or provider before piercing their child’s ears.
“Parents should talk to their physician about it beforehand,” she advises. “We’re pretty good at knowing places in the community that do it safely.”
Looking for additional baby and toddler articles? Read more in our Preparation for Parenting series.