Piercing my three-year-old's ears?

Justine Davies
Justine Davies 

I have two daughters - a twelve year old and three year old (big gap, I know!) The twelve year old is having her ears pierced and now the three year old has decided that she wants to have hers done, too.

I haven’t said yes yet because I’m not convinced that she won’t change her mind five minutes after it’s done, but I’ve had the: “I want it!!!” tantrums – and also the: “It’s not fair – I had to wait until I was twelve” tantrums from the older one as well. Either way I can’t win!

But are there any medical reasons why three years olds shouldn’t have their ears pierced? Ta.


Hi Tam,

It’s not fair – I had to wait until I was twelve

You’re right, it’s a no-win situation – but personally I think your older daughter’s complaint is more valid than your younger daughter’s complaint!

Anyway, I have asked AMA Vice President Dr Steve Hambleton for his professional opinion.

“Anywhere that you puncture the skin you have the risk of infection,” he says. “And at that age, if you are doing it purely for cosmetic reasons – well, it’s a big decision to make. There are significant risks of diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS being transmitted in unsafe piercing studios or when piercing is done by unqualified friends or relatives in non-sterile conditions.

Other risks involved in piercing include infections which can result in blood poisoning and severe scarring. As such it’s important to ensure that wherever you have the piercing done is a clean and sterile environment. The AMA has put out a booklet called “Ask some piercing questions” which you can access online here.


But Tam apart from the risk of infection, which is a risk at any age, there is also a higher risk with young children that they could tear their earlobe. “Children in particular are doing adventurous things – they have an active life which means that there’s a higher risk of catching their earring on something and tearing their ear,” says Dr Hambleton. “Older children will be more aware of the risks and therefore more cautious but toddlers and young children won’t give it a second thought. A torn ear lobe can heal, but it can cause excessive scarring.”

Dr Hambleton has three daughters of his own and imposed a minimum age 10 limit on each of them. “They all have their ears pierced now, but they weren’t allowed to have them done before age ten,” he says. “By that age they are old enough to understand that they have to sit totally still even though something is going to hurt. But prior to that age when they were still at a higher risk of catching an earring and tearing their ear, it was a no from us.”

EB Members: Did you pierce your children’s ears? Do you have any advice for Tam?  Leave your comments here.