To pierce or not to pierce: Earrings can be rite of passage, but also cause problems for young children
WHEATLAND — When Shelby Quinn had girls, she knew she would eventually have their ears pierced.
She wasn’t as certain about when to do it, but the rural Wheatland mom said she opted to have her daughters’ ears pierced when they were about 3 years old. Then, she figured, it would be something they wanted to have done, but wouldn’t be something they feared.
“They were totally excited about having their ears pierced like Mom,” Quinn said.
It’s a decision neither she nor the girls regret. Both 10-year-old Rowan and 7-year-old Aubrey said they like having their ears pierced.
“I like to change them to match what I’m wearing,” Rowan said.
They rarely go without wearing earrings, and their mom said they’ve had very few problems with their pierced ears over the years.
Earrings can be almost like a rite of passage for kids. Like the Quinns, they can be a way for little girls to look like Mom.
But sometimes earrings do cause problems.
Because it is a cosmetic procedure, Dr. Bonnie Kvistad, Sanford Children’s pediatrician, said the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a specific age recommendation for piercing ears.
“Some will say as a guideline to wait until the child is old enough to take care of the pierced site himself or herself,” she said. “If parents chose to pierce in infants or young kids, they just need to be really diligent about keeping an eye on those earrings, cleaning them frequently, looking for signs of infection or an embedded earring. This is especially true in the nonverbal child who can’t tell you if it’s becoming tender or not quite feeling right.”
Those signs of infection may include swelling, warmth, tenderness or drainage, Kvistad said.
When the ear is first pierced, the stud should be left in for six to eight weeks, she said. And parents, or the child if she is old enough, should clean the site frequently with alcohol. Parents or the child also will need to turn the stud so it doesn’t become embedded in the earlobe.
If an earring does become embedded, Kvistad said it’s not easy to get out without hurting the child.
Sometimes children’s earlobes are thick, so she said parents need to make sure the earring’s post is not too short. While Kvistad said she hasn’t seen a child or infant choke on an earring, anytime young children are around something small, it could happen.
Kvistad cautions that parents should make sure to have their children’s ears pierced at a reputable place, and they should ensure a hypoallergenic metal is used to reduce the risk of irritation from the metal.
For kids who want the look of pierced ears but either they or their parents aren’t ready to have the procedure done, there are alternatives.
Shelly Coffman created vegetable-based temporary tattoo earrings for her own daughter because she said she was looking for an alternative to piercing or stickers that fall off or stick in children’s hair.
The temporary-tattoo earrings last for several days and come in a variety of styles, including glow-in-the-dark, sports and animal styles that could be worn by girls or boys, said Coffman, Poppy Drops owner and founder.
Coffman wanted an alternative because as a child, her sister had an earring pulled out and needed surgery to repair her earlobe.
“That’s kind of an extreme circumstance,” Coffman said. “But it’s just kind of one of those things in life — why struggle with infections or hassles or risks when you don’t need to?”