For some, piercing a baby daughter’s ears is a cultural or family tradition. For others, it’s a way of making it perfectly clear to the world – before there’s enough hair to hold in a clip – that their child is a daughter and not a son. Whatever the motivation, it’s popular to pierce a little girl’s ears when she’s barely out of the cradle. But while the practice may fare well in popular opinion, it doesn’t fly well in the medical community. One reason is concern that an infection at the site of the puncture could get out of hand in a young child before the parent is aware of it. Infections are common in the first few months after piercing, and most young children are unable to report that an ear is itchy, sore, or tender (though some will pull at their ears or cry when earing inserted). As a result, the early signs of infection can easily go unnoticed.
The earrings themselves can also pose a problem; a young child could take them out to play with (or they could fall of in her hands), than stick herself with or swallow one or more of the parts. So most doctors recommend that the procedure be put off until a child is at least 4, and preferably closer to 8 years old.
If you nevertheless opt to get your toddler’s ears pierced, be sure the procedure is performed under sterile condition, by someone who is qualified (check with your daughter’s doctor for a recommendation). After the procedure, clean the lobes daily by dabbing them with a cotton wool ball saturated with nubbing alcohol or with hydrogen peroxide (which may be less drying) and rotate the earings each morning (to keep them from sticking to the holes). If you notice any signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus or crusting, tenderness or bleeding) call your child’s doctor. And do not allow your child to wear dangling earrings; they can be pulled by other children (or by the child herself), possibly tearing the ear lobe. If your child starts trying to remove her earrings or play with them, stop inserting the earrings and let the holes close up. You can always have the ears pierced again when your child is a little older and more responsible.
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