Ear Piercings at a Pediatrician’s Office? Yes and Here’s Why
The benefits of taking your child to a doctor’s office
People have different reactions to hearing that a pediatrician’s office performs ear piercing. It is usually either one of relief or that of surprise. There is no actual medical benefit to having your child’s ears pierced, but this is a very common, cultural, cosmetic practice that many girls will have done sometime during childhood or adolescence.
Often times pediatricians’ offices will provide this service since we have access to medical grade equipment, are trained in sterilization techniques and are equipped to handle any potential side effects. As with any procedure, there are some risks involved, but we have found that when having this done in a medical setting, and more importantly with proper technique, the risks are rather minimal. For that reason, parents are often relieved to hear that we offer this service in our office because they feel more comfortable having us perform it.
I had my ears pierced as a child by my pediatrician. Actually I had mine pierced three times; and no, not for three separate piercings. I was one of those. It took three attempts. And I was 10. It’s embarrassing. The first two attempts were done by jewelers, both of which used small earrings/needles.
I let them close each of those times because when taking the earrings out for the first time, despite caring for them properly, it hurt quite a bit and as it goes, I refused to let anyone touch my ears for a long time afterwards.
The third time was done by my pediatrician (more than 20 years ago now). Obviously, the initial pain involved was exactly the same. For my personal case, I found those earrings to be less painful when removing and thus I finally had success. Obviously in my case, my younger self was being a little difficult; however, we definitely experienced a difference in quality of earrings and equipment that was used when my pediatrician performed it. That made the aftercare much easier for me.
As I mentioned above, there is no medical reason to pierce a child’s ears and as such, there is no official “best” time to have it done. I recommend waiting until your child is old enough to tell you that she wants this performed and old enough to care for it herself. Ultimately, the timing and age at which you have this done is up to you and your family. Sometimes families want to have their baby girl’s ears pierced during infancy so that she won’t have to remember what it was like. Because young infant’s ear lobes are so small, it would be a good idea to wait until they are a bit bigger just so that placement will be most accurate. Also, I would strongly advise against ear piercing before children are old enough to be vaccinated. In fact, in our office, we require children to be vaccinated before having this procedure done.
There are risks involved – mainly infection at the site or scarring. We reduce these risks by using sterile equipment and having you clean the site every day with alcohol or peroxide. This is also why we require vaccinating beforehand. If you do develop infection, it will usually appear very red, swollen and may have some associated discharge. Infected piercing sites will also usually be quite tender. If you do develop an infection, you should contact your pediatrician right away.
Another risk is the development of allergies to metals, especially to nickel. Because of this we always use nickel-free posts for all of our earrings. Typically we like to use medical-grade titanium posts since this tends to prevent reactions the best. Stainless surgical steel is another common and safe option to go with. Other good options are medical plastic or gold.
Whether or not you have your child’s ears pierced at your doctor’s office, it is very important to seek out a trained professional for this. Make sure that the individual performing the procedure washes their hands beforehand, wears gloves and uses sterile products. The part of the product that touches your skin should come directly out of the packaging before coming in contact with your skin and before touching anything else. It is never a good idea to do this yourself or at a friend’s house.
“Does it hurt?” Well, I would be lying if I said there was no pain involved at all. It does pinch, but the pain involved is brief and resolves rather quickly. You may even experience a warm sensation for a few moments afterwards as well, which is normal and lasts only momentarily. To minimize discomfort, I recommend icing the site beforehand. Yes, there is ‘numbing cream’ but this has to be left on your earlobes for a long time in order to be effective and since the pain involved with piercing is so brief this is not common practice and is typically unnecessary.
In our office, we do like to perform “simultaneous piercing” with two sets of equipment and one provider at each ear. This is to ensure that the pinching and painful part of this experience is over with as quickly as possible. We have all seen and heard stories about girls who want their ears pierced, are excited to have it done, have one ear pierced and then refuse to allow the other one to be done. This way the experience is one and done.
What is the aftercare like? Generally, we have you keep the first earrings in for six weeks. It is important to turn the earrings and clean them with either alcohol or peroxide every day. Don’t remove the earrings too early, because the holes will actually close up right away. Avoid swimming, especially in a lake or ocean because of the risk of infection. Be careful when removing clothing or when playing sports, etc that the earrings do not get caught and/or pulled. If this is happening it would be best to cover them with bandages over the earlobes to prevent this. Also, when applying make-up, hair sprays, hair dye, etc. it would be best to cover your earlobes to protect them.
It can actually take a whole year for the holes to completely heal, so consider wearing earrings for the whole year to keep the hole from shrinking. Keep the area around the earrings clean and dry, wash your hands before changing earrings and make sure to wash the earrings or sanitize them with alcohol before using them as well. Take care when changing earrings. Because the skin within the hole is still delicate for almost a year after piercing, there is still risk of infection if that skin should tear.
Again, there is no medical reason to have your ears pierced. But – if you’re going to have it done, get it done right. If you decide to have it done by a physician, that’s great; however, if you decide to go outside of the medical community that’s OK too – just be sure to seek out a professional who will perform it properly for you or your child. Remember, there are some risks involved, albeit minimal. Make sure you and your child are ready to properly care for the site.
And, don’t be like me. Once is enough.
Get to know Jennifer Gittleman, D.O.
Dr. Gittleman, D.O. is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Fort Worth (Clearfork). Our Fort Worth (Clearfolk) doctors are specialists in the health care of infants, children and adolescents. Our team includes board certified pediatricians, that together with you, will get your kids on the path to leading happy and healthy lives.
New and existing Clearkfork pediatrician office patients can make an appointment by calling 817-592-8199 or by click here.