According to the NHS, "ear lobe piercings take approximately 6 weeks to heal." Even with good care, proper piercing techniques and minimal allergy-metals, many children still suffer from infections after having their ears pierced.
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Signs of an infected ear lobe include swelling, redness, warmth, pain around the area and a thick, yellow or white fluid called pus, according to the Children's Hospital in Colorado.
Ear infections are common and easy to address in the early stages. KidsHealth.org warns: "Don't wait for it to get better by itself because the infection may spread and make you ill." When left untreated, minor ear infections worsen, spread and create complications as severe as embedded earrings. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, severe complications include "allergic reactions, auricular perichondritis, embedded earrings, infection, keloid formation, perichondral abscess, traumatic tear."
Good health practices protect children from infections resulting from the ear piercing process. The Mayo Clinic offers a checklist for ear piercing establishments. Make sure the ear piercing facility employs properly trained and licensed employees, has a heat sterilisation machine called an autoclave, offers a clean environment, sterilises tools and utilises single-use piercing devices.
Washing hands and sterilising the ear before piercing kills bacteria. Another consideration is the earring metal itself. Gold posts, 14 or 18 carat, are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. "Consumers must pay careful attention to the stud or clasp on earrings; jewellery with a high carat rating commonly is paired with less expensive gold-plated studs or earring backs. Niobium and titanium are lightweight elemental metals that rarely produce an allergic response," notes the American Academy of Family Physicians. The Academy recommends earrings with locking or screw-on backs to protect small children from accidental ingestion.
"An ear infection should start healing within two days and subside completely within one to two weeks," according to KidsHealth.org.
Prevention / solution
Consistent cleaning and earring removal treats ear infections in children with ears not pierced recently. Schmitt, M.D., for The University of Michigan Health System website says, "Take out the earring three times a day. Clean the earring and both sides of the ear lobe with rubbing alcohol. Put an antibiotic ointment on the post and put it in again. Keep putting on the ointment for two days after the infection seems cleared up." Parents of children with recently pierced ears prevent infection by washing hands before touching ears and applying rubbing alcohol to both sides of the hole around the earring, according to the Children's Hospital in Colorado. "Then twirl the earring several times to make sure the alcohol gets in." Have children wear loose earring backs that don't pressure the lobe. The Mayo Clinic adds, "Don't touch the piercing or twist the jewellery unless you're cleaning it."
Connect with Kids.com cites David Goo, M.D., for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta stating that: "If that inflammation or infection starts spreading up the ear or on to the neck, that's very serious, because an infection in the cartilage could cause you to lose part of your ear, or an infection in your neck could cause you to be very, very ill. The earliest sign of infection or a problem will be pain." Address any pain a child experiences soon after an ear piercing immediately.
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