Family tradition, rite of passage or a promise fulfilled – for a young girl, getting her ears pierced is a special milestone. But it's still a medical procedure, and great care should be taken in where and how it's done. "Because you're putting something through the earlobe, there can be a reaction," says Dr. Deborah Ungerleider, a pediatrician practicing in Midland Park.
What to Expect
While some families opt to have their baby's ears pierced, most girls have it done when they are in the later elementary school years. Ideally, the best age is when a child can take care of her ears on her own. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that ear piercing be done by a doctor, nurse or experienced technician for safety and cleanliness. A baby should have her ears pierced by a medical professional, but for older kids, numerous jewelry stores and mall kiosks will do the job, so choose wisely if you decide to go that route.
Before the procedure, the lobes should be numbed with a cream or a spray. Ungerleider gives her patients a prescription for EMLA cream, a local anesthetic, to apply at home an hour before the piercing.
Allergic reactions sometimes occur because of the metal in the earring post, most commonly nickel. Ungerleider uses 24-karat gold-plated earrings with surgical steel, which she feels are the most hypoallergenic. Common signs of a reaction or infection include redness, pain, swelling or pus. Occasionally this can occur because the earring backs are in too tight. "When kids are cleaning," Ungerleider says, "they tend to push the backs in too close to the ear because they worry they will fall off." See a doctor if any of those symptoms occur. A topical ointment or an oral antibiotic can help. If it is an infection, the earrings might have to be removed.
When it comes to sports, it's smart to time piercing around the playing season, because the earrings can't be taken out for the first 4 to 6 weeks, even for an hour-long lacrosse or soccer game. If referees won't allow the earrings to be taped, your young player might be watching her team from the sidelines for several weeks.
Although piercing the upper part of the ear is popular, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against it.
• Twice a day for the first two weeks, clean the back and front of ears with alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol on a Q-Tip.
• Push the earring forward to clean the front of the ear, then push it back and clean behind the ear.
• Rotate the earrings a few times after cleaning.
• After the initial two weeks, regular showering or bathing will keep them clean.
• Keep earrings in at all times for six weeks.
• If there are no issues after that time, they can be taken out for a few hours at first, then eventually overnight.
Where to Go
If your pediatrician does not pierce ears, here are a few options:
Medical Ear Piercing
197 W. Spring Valley Ave., Maywood
$80-$130 for piercing and earrings
Sweet & Sassy
216 E. Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood
Piercing is free; earrings range from $39-$42
Paramus Park Mall (201) 967-9011
Garden State Plaza (201) 843-2497
Piercing is free; earrings start at $35