Everyone seems to have an opinion on this subject, even those without their own children. Some may argue children shouldn’t have their ears pierced at all, while others have strong opinions about what the appropriate age is. Back in 2011, Angelina Jolie took her daughters Zahara and Shilohat to get their ears pierced at the ages of 6 and 5 years, while earlier this year Katie Price provoked an angry backlash after putting her 17-month old daughter Bunny through the process.
Obviously, there are some piercings (such as this kind of piercing) that are only appropriate for adults. But when it comes to ear piercings, this is still very much up for debate. The middle classes (mostly) frown upon the barbaric act of piercing a babies ears, while in some cultures it’s a perfectly normal ritual. There’s no medical evidence to say when the right time is to pierce a child’s ears, but there are some common sense arguments for delaying ear piercing in developing babies. Determining the most appropriate age to get your child’s ears pierced is often a hot topic at the school gates, and there isn’t a definitive answer.
We’re not here to judge. It’s not easy when your 7 year old is persistent in her cries “please, please, please can I get my ears pierced, so and so has, and I’ll be good forever I promise.” Different families do things in different ways, so don’t be swayed to make a decision either way. Stand firm in what you believe, do your homework and keep an open dialogue with your child about the reason’s you may or may not want to delay the inevitable.
Here, Dakota Murphey, working with Nirvana Wholesale who were consulted for some of the information in this article, gives you some of the commonly asked questions about this childhood rite of passage.
When is the right age to get ears pierced?
Ask any expert and they’ll largely tell you it’s down to personal preference. Some may argue puncturing the skin (at any age) opens up the risk of infection, but when a baby’s immune system is still developing it may offer more potential risks.
The arguments for piercing kids’ ears early, even as young as a few days old, centres around their lack of awareness of pain, and that they fiddle less with studs during the healing period. Those in this camp argue that babies’ ear lobes are softer, and it may make piercing less painful. Mostly, in the baby ear-piercing fraternity, it seems to be born out of following family tradition.
Most doctors wouldn’t recommend piercing babies’ ears because of the risk of infection, and they’d certainly recommend holding off until after babies have had their vaccinations, especially DPT which includes the tetanus vaccine.
According to a 2013 study, the average age at which a little girl gets her ears pierced has fallen steeply to the age of 7. FOMO (the fear of missing out) and the rise of social media are driving competition between children about how they look, what they wear, and even whether or not they have their ears pierced. It’s no wonder the pressure is on.
Coming to a decision about when is the right time for your child to have his or her ears pierced will come largely down to how you feel about it, the relationship you have with them, and how responsible you think they’ll be in keeping ears and new studs clean. There’s no legal age restriction (although a consent form is required for under 16s). The older your child is, the more likely they will be able to take responsibility for hygiene.
So you’ve agreed, what next?
There are a few considerations and conversations you may like to have with your child about the process. At the very least talk through the process, the possible pain and the importance of the aftercare, as well as things to look out for in terms of infection. It’s often a good idea to agree a date at the beginning of the school summer holidays so you can keep a closer eye on things, and there’s no issue of having to remove jewellery at school for P.E.
Be sure to find a reputable place for ear piercing. You want a sterile process and a professional service. Recommendations are a good idea, but check out the place yourself first too.
What material/type of studs?
The simpler the style the better for aftercare, and for age appropriateness. Surgical stainless steel are typically the best, as this metal is the least likely to cause an allergic reaction. Other safe options are platinum and 14K gold. Avoid anything with nickel and/or cobalt as allergies to these metals are common. Studs with a safety clutch on the earring back limits the risk of pushing the back too tightly against the fresh piercing.
What aftercare should I follow?
Apart from the obvious bathing in cleaning solution (usually suppled when ears are pierced), make sure your child washes his/her hands before cleaning and when rotating the earrings. Cleaning solution should be either hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. Your child will need to softly slide and rotate the earrings to keep the shape of the holes, and they’ll need to do this, as well as regular daily cleaning for at least 6 weeks.
What are the signs of infection?
Watch out for infection. Look for redness, swelling or pus. Any pain, tenderness or itching could be a sign of infection or allergy. If you suspect an infection remove the earrings and see your GP who will most likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.