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Ask a piercing question

Dec 03, 2014 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Your tween daughter has been mercilessly bugging you to get her ears pierced. The approaching holidays seem like an ideal time for you to relent—but you still have concerns. You really have nothing to worry about, however, as long as you plan ahead and come prepared.

The American Academy of Dermatology has a lot to say on the subject. “Although ear piercings are more common and can be less risky than other body piercing, they can still cause complications if not handled safely.”

“It’s important to remember that pierced skin is skin that has been wounded, leaving it vulnerable to infection,” said board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth S. Martin, M.D. FAAD, who maintains a private practice in Hoover, Alabama. “To minimize the risks, always go to a trained professional for piercing, use hypoallergenic earrings, and keep your newly pierced ears clean.”

To encourage healing Dr. Martin recommends the following tips:
  • Always wash your hands before touching newly pierced ears.
  • Leave the earrings in your ears for six weeks or more—even at night. Removing the starter earrings too early may cause the piercing to close.
  • Regularly wash your ears with soap and water. Carefully do this at least once a day to avoid infection.
  • Twist the earrings a few times daily. This will help keep the pieced holes open.
  • Put rubbing alcohol on your ears: Using a cotton ball or pad dipped in rubbing alcohol, gently clean the skin around the piercings twice a day to keep away germs and prevent scabbing. You may also apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly around the opening.

“After piercing your ears, keep an eye on them” says Dr. Martin. “If they become very tender, red, or if the holes ooze a yellowish liquid, see a board-certified dermatologist, as you may have an infection.” And Merry Christmas.

--Sarah Hagerty
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