For plenty of kids, getting their ears pierced is a rite of passage. Just think back to when you were in elementary school or middle school, and one of your friends walked into the classroom sporting newly pierced ears and shiny new studs. It was a moment for "oohs" and "aahs" — and for the kids in class who didn't have their ears pierced yet to say they couldn't wait to get their first pair of earrings.
Now that you have a child or children of your own, you might find yourself wondering when to get their ears pierced, where to take them to get the piercing done and what type of earrings to give them for their first pair. Here's your guide to ear piercing for children, including tips on deciding when to get your children's ears pierced and advice for caring for the healing ears after the piercing.
When Should You Pierce Your Daughter's Ears?
There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to the appropriate age for ear piercing. Some families decide that piercing a baby's ears is the best option, while others prefer to wait until a child is school-aged. Some parents might prefer to wait even longer, until a child is a pre-teen or teenager.
Along with age, there are a few other things to consider before piercing your child's ears. Since the first pair of earrings need to stay in the ears for six weeks and you'll want to keep earrings in the ears for several months after that, it's a good idea to schedule the piercing for a time when your child won't have any activities that require removing the new studs. Kids who play a sport that requires them to remove all jewelry before practice or games might be better off waiting until the off-season to get their ears pierced.
You might also want to check in with your child's physical education teacher. Some physical education programs require students to remove their earrings and other jewelry before class, which can create a difficult situation if your child has recently had their ears pierced. You might be able to come to a compromise with the gym teacher, such as putting bandages over the earrings during class.
It might also be the case that you're better off scheduling your child's first ear piercing during the summer when school is not in session. By the time school starts up again, the new piercings will be fully healed, and your child can remove their earrings for gym class without any issue.
What to Know About Piercing a Baby's Ears
In some cultures, it's common and expected to pierce a baby's ears shortly after birth. In some parts of the world, hospitals will pierce a baby girl's ears before she's discharged from the hospital after her birth. In cultures where baby girls commonly get their ears pierced, new parents are as likely to receive a pretty pair of earrings for their infant as they are a onesie or a set of bottles.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until a child is old enough to care for the pierced area themselves before piercing the ears, it also notes that ear piercing can be done at any age.
While it's not the official recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, some pediatricians recommend waiting until a baby is three months old before piercing their ears. One reason for that recommendation is that if a baby does get an infection or develop a fever after getting their ears pierced, they'll likely need to go to the hospital if they're under three months of age.
Another reason to wait until your baby is a few months old is to give them time to get some of their vaccinations. Waiting a few months also gives your baby's immune system a chance to develop, meaning they're likely to be better able to fight off any infections if they do occur.
Signs That Your Child Is Ready to Have Their Ears Pierced
If you decided not to pierce your child's ears while they were an infant, how can you know when they're ready to have their ears pierced as an older child? There are a few signs to look for, including the following:
- They're asking you for pierced ears: Often, when a child is ready to have their ears pierced, they'll ask their parents for it over and over. While you, as the parent, have the final say when it comes to whether or not now is the right time for piercing your child's ears, once they start requesting it, you'll know it's something they want.
- They already handle other chores: One thing you want to verify before you let your child get their ears pierced is that they'll be able to care for the earrings and their newly pierced ears. If your child already performs chores daily, such as making their bed, loading up the dishwasher or brushing their teeth, you can feel pretty confident that they can handle the responsibility of pierced ears.
- They understand the importance of taking care of the piercing: Before you schedule your child's ear piercing, have a chat with them about what will be involved in caring for the new earrings after they get their ears pierced. You want to confirm that they understand why they need to care for their ears and what the steps are to do so.
- Nothing will interfere with the piercing: If your child plays a sport, rides a horse or does any activity that might interfere with their newly pierced ears or require them to take their earrings out while the piercing is still healing, it might be a good idea to wait.
- They understand what is involved: Although you might be able to put a numbing cream on your child's earlobes before they get their ears pierced, they still need to understand that there is likely to be a pinch and some discomfort when the piercing happens. One way to see if your child is ready for the "pinch" of piercing is to consider how they react to getting a shot at the doctor's office. If your child breaks down and spends hours crying after a shot, you might want to hold off on piercing their ears until later.
Where to Go to Get Your Child's Ears Pierced
Once you've decided to go ahead with your child's ear piercing, the next thing to decide is where to have the piercing performed. Several options exist when it comes to piercing your child's ears:
- Pediatrician's office: Not every pediatrician pierces ears, but if yours does, having your child's ears pierced at the doctor's office can be ideal. You'll have a guarantee that the environment and tools used will be clean and sterile.
- Jewelry store: Many jewelry stores offer ear piercing, either for a fee or for free if you purchase a pair of earrings. You can ask at the jewelry store where you're buying your child's first earrings if they also do piercings. If they don't, they might be able to direct you to a place that does offer them.
- Tattoo/piercing parlor: While a tattoo and piercing parlor might look intimidating from the outside, once you're inside, you're likely to find a clean and sterile environment that looks a lot like a doctor's office. Be sure to vet the parlor first by checking out reviews, visiting and asking people you know for recommendations.
- Mall kiosk: Piercing your child's ears at a kiosk or accessories store at the mall is an option, but it's usually the least recommended one. Mall kiosks often use piercing guns, which aren't as sterile as needles. In addition, the person performing the piercing might not be as trained and experienced with the process as a doctor or professional piercer.
What to Look for When You're Getting Your Child's Ears Pierced
One of the big questions parents face when they're deciding to have their children's ears pierced is whether it's better to pierce with a needle or a piercing gun. Although piercing guns are relatively common, many experts, such as the Association of Professional Piercers, recommend using a needle instead of a gun to pierce any part of the body.
The primary reason needles are recommended is that it's impossible to sterilize a piercing gun. The person using a piercing gun can disinfect it, but they can't expose it to the high temperatures required to sterilize it.
Another reason needles are preferable to piercing guns is because of the sharpness of the object being pushed through the earlobe. Piercing guns push the post of an earring into the lobe. The post of the earring isn't as sharp as the point of a hypodermic needle, meaning that the process of piercing the earlobe relies more on the pressure from the gun than the sharpness of the post. There's a somewhat increased risk of infection and other complications when a piercing gun is used instead of a needle.
Whether you go to a piercing parlor, a doctor's office or a mall store, you want to make sure the following process happens before the person performing the piercing gets anywhere near your child's ears:
- They wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
- They put on a fresh new pair of vinyl gloves.
- They open a sterile package of needles or wipe a piercing gun down with an antiseptic wipe.
You can ask the person doing the piercing about their sterilization or disinfecting processes. If they can't give you an answer or aren't sure how things are sterilized or disinfected, you might want to find another place to go.
Before piercing your child's ears, the person performing the piercing should clean the earlobe with an antiseptic solution or wipe. If you're concerned about discomfort from the piercing itself, you can ask the person about using a cream with a topical anesthetic in it. Even if your child's pediatrician doesn't offer ear piercing, they might still be willing to give you a prescription numbing cream to make the process more comfortable for your child.
How to Choose Your Child's First Pair of Earrings
When you're picking out the first pair of earrings for your baby or child, you'll want to keep a few things in mind.
First, remember that your child is going to be wearing earrings for six weeks straight. For that reason, it's a good idea to choose a pair they like. A lot of jewelry stores will offer the option of selecting earrings with the child's birthstone or letting you choose another gemstone that's equally appealing to the child.
As the post of the earring goes through your child's earlobe, it's essential to choose a sterile, hypo-allergenic metal. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends choosing gold-post earrings. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends 14k gold or higher, as well as earrings with surgical stainless steel posts.
Whatever type of earring you choose, you want to be sure that it's nickel-free. Many people, including about 11 million children, are allergic to nickel. Coming into contact with the metal can cause a reaction known as contact dermatitis.
Along with paying attention to the metal the earring is made from, it's also important to pay attention to the style of the earrings. Here are a few tips to follow:
- Choose studs: Since your child will be wearing the earrings for at least six weeks straight, pick a pair of studs instead of hoops or dangling earrings. You don't want the earrings to get caught on anything, nor do you want your child to tug at or play with them.
- Smaller is better: If you're piercing a baby's ears, pick earrings that are flat and small so that your little one is less likely to pull the studs out from their earlobes.
- Select a style your child likes: If you're piercing an older child's ears, let them pick out the style of earrings. They might want a gemstone stud, or they might prefer a small stud in the shape of a butterfly, flower or something similar.
How to Care for Your Child's Ears After Piercing
How long do baby ear piercings take to heal? Initial healing takes about six weeks. After the first six weeks, you can replace the earrings with a new pair, but don't let the holes go without jewelry for an extended period for the first six months after piercing.
Taking good care of your child's recently pierced ears will help to minimize the risk of infection and will also help the holes heal better. Here's what you and your child can do to take good care of their ears:
- Only touch the pierced area with clean hands: Wash your hands and make sure your child washes their own hands before they touch their earrings.
- Clean the area with an alcohol pad or saline solution: The person who pierced your child's ears will provide detailed instructions, but most likely, you'll want to clean the area — front and back — with rubbing alcohol or saline at least twice a day.
- Twist the earrings: Twisting the studs at least once or twice a day will help to keep them from sticking to the healing hole.
- Inspect the earrings: When you clean and twist your child's earrings, check to make sure the backing is firmly in place.
If you notice any redness or pus near the piercing, if the area looks swollen or if your child is saying their ears hurt, it's a good idea to schedule a visit to your child's doctor to make sure there's no infection.
Select Your Little One's First Earrings Today
Is your child aged 10 or older, and ready and willing to get their ears pierced? The first thing to do is to choose their first pair of earrings.
Mountz Jewelers has a wide range of post earrings that will likely be perfect for your child's first pair or even their next pair of earrings. Our trained technicians perform piercings with a standard ear piercing gun, and the earrings we use are sterilized and pre-sealed. We use 14k gold or hypoallergenic posts.
Schedule an appointment at one of our locations in Carlisle, Camp Hill or Colonial Park/Harrisburg and let your child experience the excitement of their first pair of earrings.