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Preparing your child for surgery
Pre-op TLC

House Calls
House Calls

Q: Is it safe to pierce my infant’s ears? I worry about infection.

A: Cosmetic ear piercing can be done at nearly any age, provided you take proper precautions to prevent infection and disease such as hepatitis. Choose a qualified professional who uses sterile instruments and avoid piercing guns, which can easily transmit infections. Many physicians will pierce ears in their offices. Your doctor may suggest waiting until after a baby has a dose or two of the tetanus vaccine, usually by ages 4 months to 6 months. If your family has a history of developing excessive scar tissue, called keloids, or is African-American (keloids are more common among African-Americans), consider not piercing or having the ears pierced in early childhood.

Get the ear lobes pierced, not the upper cartilage, which is prone to infection. A round, gold or sterling silver post should be inserted after piercing. You’ll need to clean the area several times a day with rubbing alcohol and apply an antibiotic ointment. Don’t remove the posts for four to six weeks and gently rotate them daily. See your child’s doctor if the area becomes red or tender.

Thankfully, most surgeries performed on children today are same-day procedures allowing little ones to return home the same night or after a brief stay. If your child is scheduled for surgery, taking time to prepare him or her and alleviate fears can help the experience go more smoothly for both of you. Children who are less anxious and fearful have an easier time before and after surgery.

Pre-op TLC

Try these tips to help prepare your child for the experience:

  • Take a pre-admission tour. A simple hospital orientation can help relieve your child’s anxiety. The visit’s purpose is to let your child know what to expect and to think of the hospital as a friendly, not-so-scary place.
  • Explain the problem. Using simple language, tell your child why he or she needs to be operated on and that the doctors will fix the problem. For example, you might remind your child how having so many ear infections has kept him or her from enjoying fun activities. After surgery, he or she won’t get sick so often and will be able to play more. Reassure your son or daughter that other kids have the same problem and come to the hospital to have it taken care of.
  • Tell what to expect. Tell your child, “The doctor will give you a special medicine so you’ll fall asleep and won’t feel any pain during the operation. When it’s over, the doctor will wake you up and I’ll be there.” When explaining, avoid using terms like “being put to sleep” or “the doctor will cut you.” Compare the operation’s length with that of a favorite TV show or video.
  • Dispel fears. Most children fear separation from their parents or the possibility of pain. Older kids may worry about becoming disfigured, waking up during the operation or failing to wake after surgery. Many feel anxious about being seen naked or having private areas examined. Encourage your child to ask questions so you can relieve fears and clear up misconceptions.

If you don’t know an answer, say, “We’ll ask.” Remember to keep your own anxieties in check. Your emotions and behavior can impact your child, so remain calm and supportive and reassure your child that this operation will help him or her feel better.