Last December, my then 5-year-old daughter begged me to get her ears pierced. After a lot of thought, I agreed.
But when we visited Claire’s for her piercing, Tessa took one look at the ear piercing instrument, burst into tears and begged to go home.
Many parents of young girls, and some boys, listen to their child’s arguments in support of ear piercing. But before you run out to your local mall, weigh the pros and cons to help you decide what’s right for your child.
Consider your reasons. Kids take cues from their peers. It may only take one or two other kids with pierced ears to make your daughter think she’ll die without them.
Judi Adelman of Lemont knows how badly her 11-year-old daughter, Chandell, wants pierced ears.
"It’s a trend and many of her friends have pierced ears," says Adelman. "There’s definitely peer pressure to get it done."
But Adelman wants Chandell to be completely ready and not pierce them just because her friends have.
What’s the right age? Some families who pierce their baby’s ears for cultural reasons might pierce them within the first few months. Others might not allow their kids to pierce their ears until their teen years. When considering the health aspect of ear piercing, age does not play a role.
"It is OK to pierce ears after the first set of vaccinations," says Dr. Ruben Rucoba of Wheaton Pediatrics. "It is a parental decision and it’s healthy as long as someone is taking good care of the piercings."
Responsibility. Before getting ears pierced, decide whose responsibility it will be to keep them clean. It isn’t an easy task and kids need to be told ahead of time how much work is involved with caring for the healing holes.
If you’re concerned about your child’s level of responsibility, but she’s begging to be pierced, give her a challenge of keeping her room clean every day for three weeks to prove she’s up to an important daily task.
Preparing for the pain. It’s a good idea to tell your child it’s going to hurt, but don’t overdo it. Visit the store or the doctor’s office early to catch another person’s piercing experience so your child knows that it doesn’t hurt too much.
Where to go. While the accessories store Claire’s is probably the first place moms think of when it comes time for a piercing, it isn’t the only option. Even though they boast of piercing more than 80 million ears, parents can also call their local pediatrician for a recommendation.
Wheaton Pediatrics is one of many doctor’s offices that is acquiring ear piercing instruments to use for patients.
"Your nurses are accustomed to giving sterile shots and the same safety techniques can be applied to ear piercing," says Rucoba.
Never allow children to pierce each other’s ears at home. Piercings outside a sterile environment can lead to infection or permanent damage to the ear lobe.
What earrings to choose. If your family has metal allergies, don’t let your child choose the first pair of earrings she thinks are cute. Limit choices to either 14-karat gold, hypoallergenic stainless steel or platinum posts. Allergic reactions can include rashes or blisters.
Initial piercings use studs that remain in the ears for six weeks, so remind your daughter that the pair she chooses is what she will be wearing for an extended period of time.
Proper care. On the same day as the piercing, purchase cleaning solution. Whether you buy specialized cleansers from a jewelry store or hydrogen peroxide at your local drugstore, be prepared to clean the new piercings at least three times a day for the next six weeks.
Apply cleanser to the front and back of the holes while gently moving the earrings to allow for maximum coverage. Twisting the earrings a few times a day keeps the hole from healing on the post. Wash hands before touching the ears to keep the holes clean.
Dealing with infection. Even with the most diligent of cleaning, infections can set in. If you suspect an infection, call your doctor immediately. Treatment may include different cleaning supplies, antibiotics or allowing the holes to close.
Types of earrings. Chances are good that your daughter will want to choose a few pairs of earrings for the day when she can remove her studs. Before you let her go crazy in the store, consider your child’s age and activities. Small, stud earrings are less likely to get caught on the clothes or the hair.
Planning for future piercings. If you’re considering allowing additional piercings, it can’t hurt to speak with a doctor first. Different parts of the body have different issues. For instance, ear cartilage is much more painful to pierce, heals slowly and can cause serious infections.
Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer in Bolingbrook. Visit her on the Web at www.michellesussman.com.