Piercing baby's ears: When is it safe?

Experts weigh in on the best age to

Experts weigh in on the best age to pierce a baby's ears. (Credit: Fotolia)

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Q. Are there any caveats when piercing an infant's ears?

A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old before piercing, says Dr. Joseph Greensher, pediatrician at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola and spokesman for the region of the AAP that includes Long Island.

The academy also recommends piercing be done in a pediatrician's office to reduce risk of infection, he says. "You know that the equipment used in the office is clean," Greensher says.

One advantage of piercing a baby over an older child is that an infant tolerates it better, Greensher says. "The bigger ones are afraid," he says.

However, there are disadvantages to piercing before age 3, he says. Greensher was part of the academy's injury-prevention committee that assessed pierced ears. If the earring comes off, or the child pries it off, a young child may put it into her mouth. If swallowed, usually it will pass from the body, Greensher says. But if inhaled, it's a choking hazard. If it enters the windpipe, it must be removed by a physician. "That's not an easy process," Greensher says. A doctor would have to use a scope to fish the object out, he says.

Greensher says parents should be sure to use stud earrings with a locking or screw back. He also says he would be more comfortable waiting until at least 3, when a child is likely to have aged out of putting everything in her mouth.

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