Ear piercing is the process of making a hole on earlobes to enable the wearing of earrings, to differentiate girls from boys, and for cultural reasons among others. In most cases, this exercise is carried out at infancy because of the belief that it is slightly painful at such age. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, Dr. Gbemisola Boyede, a consultant neuro-developmental paediatrician, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), sheds light on ear piercing in babies, and precautions to take after the procedure.
Is it safe to pierce a baby’s ear?
Yes it is safe if done properly and sterilised instruments.
What is the appropriate age to get a child’s ear pierced?
Any time even from the first day of life. It is a simple and quick procedure.
How can the experience be made less painful for the child?
The pain is similar to that of getting a needle prick for laboratory test. There are anesthetic creams that can be applied just before the procedure like EMLA cream, or even making the baby to suck breast, or glucose-water soaked cotton wool is fine. Since it is a very short procedure, it can also be done without any form of anaesthesia if the ear perforating equipment is used.
When choosing a earring for the child, which metal is ideal?
The most important thing is to avoid allergy. Some babies react to certain metals. Though it is popular to believe that pure gold earrings are best, a few babies can still react to the gold as well if they are allergic to gold. The best earrings to go for first are the hypoallergenic earrings, which are available in some pharmacy stores. If unavailable, the pure gold earring will be the next best choice, but parents must watch out for any reactions. If there is any, they must remove the earring immediately. Sometimes just some wool or cotton materials to keep the holes patent are okay if the baby reacts to the metals. It is often difficult to predict, which baby will react or not.
How should parents care for the child after piercing?
Usually there is really no need to do anything after ear piercing except in situation where the baby reacts to the earring. In such cases, the earrings should be removed and if there is raw wound, bleeding or pus, the wound should be dressed daily with antiseptic solutions till it heals completely.
Are there any other safety measures parents should consider?
The most important thing is to make sure that the instruments used for the ear perforation are sterilized. Some people use the earrings as the perforators. They should make sure they are brand new. They must also be wiped with menthylated spirit before use.