Are We There Yet: A piercing dilemma
Signs that our children have entered the tween/teen years: dinner conversations include talk of piercings and tattoos.
So far it’s just curiosity. The idea of more needles poking into their skin doesn’t appeal to them. But it’s clear that pierced ears are on our horizon.
(My husband has vowed there will be no tattoos in our house, which is the surest way to guarantee our kids will want one. Probably with some anti-sports message.)
We’ve been discussing the right age ever since one of my daughter’s best friends had her ears pierced last year, at age 9. I fended her off at the time, saying we had to wait until she was at least 10. The conversation has ebbed for now, but her next birthday approacheth.
We moms obsess about this because, for a lot of us, pierced ears signify the passing from the girl stage to the teen stage — with makeup, boy-craziness, cellphones and texting sure to follow. I’m so not ready. I’m still trying to deal with my baby heading into double digits.
The accepted age for pierced ears seems to have slid downward since I was a kid in the ... mid-late 20th century.
My older sister had to wait until she was 16. I was 14. She made her daughter wait until age 12. I’m told now that’s WAY old-fashioned.
I still remember going with a friend to an old Venture store (pre-Target era) to have our ears pierced. I ended up with somewhat uneven holes, but managed to turn the posts and clean my ears with alcohol every day and avoid any serious problems.
I’ve always subscribed to the “when you’re old enough to take care of them” line. Just like pets, which is another touchy topic in our household.
We’ve been promising our children a new pet since our last cat died about six years ago. But we discovered my daughter has a slight allergy to cats, and we worried about who would take care of a dog when we were out of town for work or family obligations. And a series of events kept postponing our decision (vacations, house projects, family illnesses, etc.).
Luckily, several friends and relatives took the pressure off by getting new pets my kids can play with temporarily.
So I’m thinking attention might shift back to the whole piercing discussion.
I decided to do a little research on the proper age for piercing and found, as usual, that it depends on whom you ask.
I peeked in a discussion on a “Circle of Moms” website, and the answers were all over the map.
It’s customary in some cultures to pierce a girl’s ears when she is a baby, and many moms argued that it’s better to do it when she’s tiny so she won’t remember the pain — and won’t fuss with them when she’s older.
One mom did it after her daughter’s first shots. (What’s one more jab?) You just have to clean them two or three times a day, she said. I can’t imagine adding that to the newborn to-do list, along with diaper changes, nursing problems, umbilical cord leftovers and sleep issues.
Another mom argued that it seems odd to modify someone else’s body without his or her consent (one word: circumcision).
Many parents argued that you should wait until your daughter is old enough to take care of the piercings — perhaps age 16. Others said they let their daughters get pierced at age 6 or 8, and they did fine, with some help.
Medical websites tend to advise waiting, for girls or boys — this is not a gender-specific issue, after all — to reduce the risk of infection and allow the ears to heal properly.
One smart mama suggested having your daughter research the issue and explain how to care for the piercings and what the signs of infection are. Sounds like a good deterrent to me.
And here’s another helpful note: Make sure she won’t have to remove them for sports anytime soon, as the holes could close up and you’ll have to go through this all over again.
Several moms suggested making ear piercing a special outing for you and your daughter to share. My daughter’s friend last year was surprised by her aunts, who took her to a salon on her birthday. She’ll remember that day for the rest of her life.
I asked my 9-year-old-going-on-30 daughter about it the other day. She shrugged and said, “12 sounds good.”
So maybe the pressure’s off. Or maybe she is ready.
Although almost every state regulates proper sanitation for tattoo parlors and stores that offer piercing services, the American Academy of Dermatologists says consumers should look for the following to minimize infection risk:
- An autoclave. This heat sterilization machine should be used for all nondisposable equipment after each customer. Instruments and supplies that can’t be sterilized with an autoclave should be cleaned with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use. That includes drawer handles, tables and sinks.
- Fresh equipment. An unused, sterile needle should be used for all piercings. For tattoos, watch the tattoo artist and make sure he or she removes the needles and tubes from sealed packages before starting work. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.
- Gloves. The employee must wash his or her hands and put on a fresh pair of surgical gloves for each procedure and change those gloves if he or she needs to touch anything else, such as the telephone, during the procedure.
- No piercing gun. Don’t get a piercing from a piercing gun unless the part of the gun that touches the skin is sterile and has never been used before. Many of these devices can’t be autoclaved, which may increase your risk of infection.
- Appropriate hypoallergenic jewelry. Metal jewelry containing nickel, cobalt or white gold can often cause allergic reactions. Look for surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, 14- or 18-karat yellow gold, or a metal called niobium.
For more advice on piercings (and information to scare your children), visit these sites:
- How to avoid infection after ear piercings, from Healthychildren.org
- About piercings and tattoos, from Medline Plus
- What consumers should look for, from the American Academy of Dermatologists
- Piercings and tattoos: Cool or dangerous, from the American Academy of Dermatologists
- Getting your ears pierced, from Kidshealth.org
Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for the News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 351-5226, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/jawurth.