Ear piercing dates back over 5000 years to ancient Egypt. In ancient tribes, ears were pierced to fight off evil spirits and demons thought to enter the body through the ear canal. Sailors in colonial times believed the piercing would improve their eyesight. Over the past centuries, earrings have become a symbol of beauty and wealth.
Since the start of my practice, I have always had earrings in the office to re-pierce the earlobes that I reconstructed due to tears or elongated piercings secondary to wearing heavy earrings. As the children of my patients and our family friends became older, they started to ask me to pierce their ears. As a mother of two boys, I am expecting…and hoping…that I will never have this experience with my own sons. But I have to admit how thrilling it is to see a little girl look into the mirror for the first time at her new earrings.
In ancient times, piercing the earlobe was a ritual to celebrate puberty. In the modern world, every parent has a different opinion as to the best timing for their daughter. Some mothers ask me to pierce the ears of their newborns, believing that the baby will stay very still, the experience will be fleeting, and the child will have no long-term memories of discomfort. Other parents wait for the child to be able to care for the earrings themselves. This is usually around seven years old. Other parents believe that ten is the magic age.
If you would like to have your infant’s ears pierced, it is best to wait until the baby is three or four months old so that the earlobe is a little larger. Although I have pierced many babies’ ears, I prefer to wait until the girl may care for her earrings herself. When a girl is in grade school, she is able to clean the earrings and twist them daily. She will also understand not to pull on tangled hair, possibly tearing the earlobe. Toddlers and preschoolers are often challenging patients as they do not like to sit still. The best situation is when the child really wants to have her ears pierced. If the child is not fully committed, it is sometimes hard to convince her to have the second ear pierced.
Go for Gold
I use pre-packaged sterile 24 karat gold studs to pierce the ears. I prefer not to use a gun or needle but instead a device which resembles a clamp. Ear device is sterilely packaged and not reusable, avoiding potential cross contamination. When you are choosing earrings for your daughter, avoid studs with nickel as many women are allergic to it. It is also best to avoid hanging earrings for six months after a new piercing as it may pull on the hole and elongate it.
X marks to spot
When your daughter is in the office, I will measure the placement for the piercing on her earlobe. No two ears are exactly alike and no two earlobes are symmetric. It is most important that the earrings hang from the same height on frontal view. The final piercing location is a combination of accurate measurements and visual tweaking.
The Ouch Factor
I place lidocaine jelly on the ears before piercing to help with the initial sting. It does not make the procedure completely painless but definitely, helps.
Some girls who participate in soccer, basketball and karate are asked to remove their earrings to participate on the team. It is essential that the earrings be in place for six to eight weeks to allow the hole to re-epithelize or to become a permanent tunnel. If the earrings are removed, even for a two-hour practice, the earrings may be difficult to replace and you may cause trauma to the hole as you try.
Use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean the front and back of the ear twice a day for the first month. During the first month, apply a thin layer of bacitracin or Neosporin onto the front and back of the ear twice a day. For the first six weeks, twist the earring in the morning and night after you clean it. Continue to wear the initial gold studs for six to eight weeks. The hole needs this time to re-epithelize or to form a solid tract. Afterwards, you can feel free to choose a new pair of earrings. But remember to clean the new earrings with rubbing alcohol before you use them to prevent infection.
For most patients, the process of having their ears pierced is straightforward and exciting. But it is possible for the ears to become infected. Many young girls will play with their earrings while at school. Make sure that your daughter knows to wash her hands before twisting her earrings.
If you notice any redness, pus or unusual soreness at the site of the piercing, please call the office as you may be developing an infection. Most infections can be cured by using an antibiotic ointment but sometimes it is necessary to prescribe oral antibiotics.
If you are interested in having your ears pierced, please call our office located on the Upper East Side in New York City at 212.600.4109.