Pierced Ears

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Pierced Ears

Did you know that people have been getting their ears pierced for thousands of years? What those ancient people probably didn't know is that it's really important to take care of your ears after they're pierced. Pierced ears may look cool, but infected ears do not!

Getting Your Ears Pierced

It's important to get your ears pierced by someone who knows how to do it correctly. You don't want a friend doing the piercing for you. You also should have a parent's permission before you have your ears pierced. Most places won't pierce your ears unless your parent (or guardian) says it's OK.

A good piercing shop will make sure that everything is clean. That means you should see the person wash his or her hands, use hand sanitizer, or wear gloves before he or she starts the process. This person should clean your ears with a special soap that kills bacteria.

You or your parent can ask the people at the piercing shop how they make sure the equipment they use — and the earrings — stay sterile, which means germ free. Another way to find out how they do things is to watch another customer get his or her ears pierced. Without these precautions, you run the risk of getting infected ears.

Metal Matters

Your first earrings should have gold posts (the part that sits in the hole). A gold post is less likely to cause infection and swelling. Later, you may find some metals cause an allergic reaction.

You're probably wondering if it hurts when the earring or needle goes through. It does, but most kids find that this pinchy feeling doesn't last too long. After the earring is in, the technician will clean your ear again and make sure that the earring is in OK. He or she also will probably tell you how to take care of your new pierced ears.

Taking Care of Your Ears

When you first get your ears pierced, you should leave the earrings in until your ears are completely healed. This usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks. If you don't, your holes could close up and you'll have to go through everything all over again!

You don't want germs with your newly pierced ears, so it's very important to keep your ears clean. For several days after the piercing, you or a parent will need to clean your ears and put ear cleaning solution, rubbing alcohol, or antibiotic ointment on them.

Whoever is doing the cleaning should follow these steps twice a day:

  1. Wash hands thoroughly.
  2. Use a cotton ball or swab to apply rubbing alcohol or antibiotic ointment to the earlobe or lobes.
  3. Gently rotate the earring in the ear.

After your ears have healed, it's a good idea to remove your earrings every night before you go to sleep. When you remove your first earrings, clean them — and any other earrings you'll be wearing — in rubbing alcohol. And if an earring ever gets stuck in your ear, seek help from a grown-up.

If Your Ears Get Infected

If you think one of your pierced ears may be infected, tell your mom or dad. An infected earlobe may be swollen, red, warm, and painful, and it may ooze a thick, yellow-white fluid called pus.

infected piercing illustration

It's fairly common for pierced ears to get infected, but don't wait for it to get better by itself because the infection may spread and make you sick.

Here are signs you need to tell your mom or dad about:

  • Your earring gets stuck in your ear.
  • The swelling or redness spreads beyond the hole.
  • You get a fever.

Your mom or dad will probably call the doctor for advice on how to treat the infection. The doctor will probably suggest a routine of cleaning the ear and putting antibacterial ointment on it.

You'll need to have a parent check in with the doctor again if the infection doesn't start going away after 2 days. But if you take care of the infection, it probably will go away completely in 1 to 2 weeks. Then you can start enjoying your pierced ears again!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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