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Ask Dr. Sears: Ready for Earrings?

Q. All of my friends' baby daughters have their ears pierced. Is this a good idea for my 3-year-old?

A. Not necessarily. There isn't a month that goes by in my pediatric practice that I don't see a medical problem from little pierced ears. Here are just a few:

  • Piercing sets up a breeding ground for germs, which can result in infected earlobes. The signs of infection: redness, soreness, swelling, and pus around the pierced area.

  • Skin tends to overheal and grow over the back of the earring  -- which a doctor then has to extract  -- when it becomes irritated or infected. This is particularly true among children, who heal more quickly than adults.

  • Scar tissue can form and leave a tiny bump in the skin of the earlobe. This is called a keloid, which can be permanent and make it very difficult for your child to wear earrings when she gets older.

  • The post can also jab the sensitive skin behind the earlobe if your child happens to fall on it or knock it while she's playing.

    If you'd like to pierce your daughter's ears for cultural or religious reasons, clean her earlobes and earrings daily with a cotton swab dipped in an antiseptic solution that contains peroxide. For the first six weeks, do this while they're in your child's ear. After that, also soak the earrings in alcohol overnight, once a week.

    Otherwise, it's usually best to put off piercing until your child's at least 10 years old, when she can care for her own earlobes responsibly.

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