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August 30th, 2010
08:52 AM ET

How can I get earrings back into closed holes?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Debbie of Ohio: My daughter got her ears pierced a few months ago and took the earrings out for a few hours today but now can't get them back in. Could the holes be closed up already? How can we get the earrings back in without it hurting too much?

Expert answer
Thanks for your question. Earring holes usually stay open for at least a day or two once a few months have passed after the original piercing. The holes often stay open for a few weeks or longer if they have been there for several years of earring use.

It is unlikely that the holes have completely closed after only a few hours. It can be helpful to wipe the front and back of the earlobe with rubbing alcohol and then stretch the earlobe to make the hole appear as large as possible. The earrings will probably go back in if inserted at the correct angle.

It may be necessary to push the earring post through a thin membrane of tissue. Look behind the ear so you can see the post pushing against the thinnest part of the lobe and then gently apply pressure to get the earring through. Trying to insert the earring from the back side first may work if you can't get it in from the front.

It may help to insert the earrings after showering or swimming; you might also try applying an antibiotic ointment on the lobes to see whether the earrings will slide in more easily. If your daughter is in pain, you may want to apply some ice to the earlobe first to numb it a little or ask your doctor if a numbing cream could help.

Contact your doctor's office if you still aren't able to get the earrings in. Once the earrings are re-inserted, you may want to leave them in for a few weeks or months before attempting to remove them again.

Clean them with rubbing alcohol and turn the posts daily so that the holes will become more sturdy. If all else fails, it may be best to let the holes close up until your daughter is older and then get her ears pierced again if she wants.

Good luck!


soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Mongtomery

    I wonder what age your daughter was when you got the piercings. Back in the late 70's and early 80's my mom got my ears pierced. I know I was very young. Maybe less than 6 mths old. Anyway I am not big on wearing earrings. I've gone years w/out wearing earrings (I only wear them on special occassions such as attending a wedding). Anyway, my holes have never closed up. Maybe I got lucky. I don't know.

    August 30, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Natalie

      Nope same thing for me! I've gone years without wearing them and they never closed! I was 3 mths old when I got mine pierced.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • Brenda123

      Me too! I got the first hole pierced professionally, but I pierced two others on my own. Ouch... it's painful to be beautiful. Currently I only wear one pair of earrings, but I've inserted the earring in different holes depending on the style. I think after years and years of wear, they just stay open for life.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
    • Kathryn

      I got my piercing when I was 12. Its been 13 years since I got it pierced. I can't remove my piercing earring when I am not wearing any because the hole will completely close within a week or two. I wore a thin post stud once and it got stuck. But my mom on the other hand, she got hers pierced when she was a child and she only wear earring for special occasion. Hers never close... Perhaps whatever they are doing now, it might be the wrong technique?

      August 30, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      I got mine done at age 13 and have gone for stretches of up to 8 months without wearing earrings, and never had a problem with closed holes. My aunt, however, had hers done at age four and has had to have them repierced several times because they closed up after a few weeks without earrings. It most likely depends on the individual and their own biology.

      August 30, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      I was just about to say the same thing. I had mine pierced when I was 3 years old. I've gone years, and only wear them for special occasions, and they've never closed up. The holes do tighten a little and my ears CAN hurt after wearing earrings after a long time but thats only if the posts are larger than normal (not all earrings are made the same).

      August 31, 2010 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
  2. Alabama

    Telling someone to turn the earrings is lousy advice. Piercings heal by secondary intention. Each time you twist those earrings around you are tearing the new tissue that is trying to form. Also, alcohol is very drying. Wash gently with soap and water, and then leave them alone!

    August 30, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don

      The holes stay open because of the foreign body (the earring), they do not ever heal but become an epithelialized fistula in the skin. Turning them will help to create a definite tract that can become epithelialized. The post will start to become incorporated on the sides and be very painful to move or remove, causing bleeding, if not manipulated regularly.

      August 30, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • Austin

      To those saying that turning a piercing is proper aftercare: wrong. I'd like to see which and how many piercings you have "healed" by employing that method. It's a very nice way to build yourself a terribly scar-tissue laden fistula. No thanks.

      To the "Doctor" who responded to this note- rubbing alcohol is completely out of the question as a "lubricant." Take a hot shower, and immediately after, massage the ear lobes with Vitamin E oil. That will help the tissue become pliable. Then insert the jewelry.

      August 30, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Body Piercer

    Take the kid to a body piercing studio and let someone that does this for a living take care of itand explain the procedure to you

    August 30, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Dave

    wow. i tried to find a good piece of advice in this article... but failed miserably. This pile of nonsense is a very effective guide to what NOT to do when dealing with a healing piercing. Dr. Shu... please stick to writing prescriptions.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • a girl

      Dr.shu actually really helped me..so it was really disrespectful of you to tell ,her\him to stick to writig prescriptions...that comment was relly old but still that was VERY disrespectful of you to say...just sayin...atleast she was trying to be respectful and help out...just cause she didnt help you doesnt mean she didnt help anyone else.

      December 24, 2013 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
  5. Sandy

    A piercer should have answered this question! We just got my daughter's ears pierced over the summer by a piercer, not the chick at the mall. They've been healing wonderfully, and we were instructed to clean them with saline, not alcohol or other substances. I'm amazed how much more quickly they're healing compared to my piercings from my youth. My daughter did have one fall out, I knew it had been out for hours, yet I was able to pop it right back in because I followed the advice of the piercer.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. josh

    if you have them pierced with a gun you could break the cartilage and it could hurt and do more damage then good. the best idea is to get anything ANYTHING Pierced by a local PIERCER not a sales clerk at the mall.. go to a tattoo shop or Piercing studio. they use a needle,cork and sanitary aids. and they will give u the best after care, length, and when its safe to remove/change jewelry. for ANY PIERCING. ive had 9 piercings done over 1000 at least, so. depending on how the skin is pierced also is a factor in healing. for any tattoo/piercing oil will be your enemy. I recommend and use H20spray items like aqua spray for piercings,and baby ointment called aquafor for tattoos. its all the same concept really. your breaking the skin and applying something to be permanent. if you have any questions contact local piercer or tattooist. if pain persists/worsens over time of healing. after about 4 days contact physician. but for any piercing research and talk to someone with same piercing for KNOWLEDGE your experiences will not be identical but they will be similar... hope this helps some of you.

    August 30, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Nancy

    It is IMPERATIVE that anyone who touches newly pierced ears MUST WASH HIS/HER HANDS WITH SOAP & WATER BEFORE touching the piercing. Also, do not use alcohol as it dries the skin which makes the percing itchy, which causes too much touching....which can lead to an infection. Better to use soap and water and something like polysporin. I can't believe a doctor wrote this article!

    August 30, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Megan

    I do have to say, although I know "better" now that I've had more piercings done, when I was 17 and convinced my mom to let me get my navel pierced, one of her conditions was that I use alcohol when it was healing. Being a nurse in the NICU, alcohol is used on the umbilical cord stub to dry it so it falls off, so she was looking at it with that logic. My piercing healed about 5 times faster than all of my friends who had it done at the same time(2 weeks compared to 10 weeks), and 10 years later, it's still perfect.

    August 30, 2010 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ladderflappy

    asking people to check with their drs. about such an innocuous issue, is hugely funny.......They don't call me back unless I have a fork sticking out of neck...

    August 30, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. TC

    So question for all of you experts out there

    I have had my ear lobes pierced twice without any problems though I am very sensitive to any and all earrings.

    I have pierced my cartilage (at the top of my ear) 3 times and each time it gets infected and I have to eventually pull them out and let it heal back up. The first two times were at a piercing/tattoo parlor and the last time was at claires. I had special brown stuff to put on my years that my cousin gave me that he got when he got his eyebrow pierced and that didn't help. I tried neosporin and that didn't help either.

    I do have shoulder length hair that was forever getting caught in the piercing so I don't know if that played a factor in anything

    Anything I can do to keep them from getting infected?

    August 30, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathryn

      Have you tried different type of metal? I know I can't wear anything that is not silver or gold. I love the earring style they have at fashion store but I can't wear those unless I can the post. Within hours of wearing it, my ear lobes would swell or itch. Next thing you know, it's infected and crusty.

      August 30, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Kathryn it doesn't matter what earrings I try they start itching after about 20 minutes. I've tried the kind for sensitive ears, real gold, real silver and nothing works.

      Marine....dude calm down. I was simply asking a question. The infection has nothing to do with the reaction to any earrings. There is something else going on. How would I be able to get my ears pierced twice without any complications...meaning no swelling, no redness, no infection and lastly no antibiotics from the doctor if it was a reaction to the earrings themselves? I am almost 28. I got the first cartilage pierced when I turned 18, then waited 6 months after the infection cleared up get them pierced again. Then I waited about 2 years after that to try for the third time. Add those years up huny. This is not something I plan on going out and doing tomorrow, I was simply researching and trying to figure out what if anything I could do to prevent an infection in the future *IF* I decide to pierce them in the future. I never said I was going to and I never said I've newly pierced them. I was simply asking questions.

      August 30, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
    • Vibecat

      TC, I have a similar problem with my cartilage piercing... but its that I can only wear white or yellow gold and it absolutely has to be a hoop. If I put a post in, even if its gold, I have an irritation within 12 hours. I don't know if it is that the air isn't getting through or what, but its either a tiny hoop or nothing. And since it is such a pain to get it back in if I knock it out brushing my hair – I usually have to get my neighbor or something since my hubby can't do it – I gave up 6 months ago, the last time I knocked it out! At least until I find a tiny white gold hoop that I can get in and out by myself anyways. Good luck if you try again, they say our bodies are always changing... next time may be "the charm!"

      August 30, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
    • Sydney Australia

      The only type of earring I can wear for more than an hour are the little studs that piercers use in their guns. I think they are surgical steel. Had ears pierced at 16, (needle, potato and ice cube) and could wear any type of metal earring until I became pregnant and the whole body chemistry thing changed. Every time I have tried 10k, 14k, white or yellow gold or some type of hypoallergenic I end up with taking earrings out as ear lobes begins to get inflamed.

      August 30, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Thanks vibeact I had tried hoops in the past but they are super hard to put in yourself and I always ended up hurting myself.
      The one reason I didn't leave them in was because the part that went through my ear was smaller than a normal stud earring and I was afraid it would close up enough that I couldn't put a regular stud in it. Did that happen with you?

      August 31, 2010 at 00:00 | Report abuse |
  11. Marine65

    Stop piercing them! Is is really all that important? You stated you are sensitive to any and all earrings, why then would you continue to pierce them? You can't change the way your body reacts to certain things.

    August 30, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dr. Jennifer Shu

    Thanks for everyone's comments so far! Our pediatrics office does ear-piercings for children if the child/parent desires it and we sometimes see complications such as infections, allergic reactions, stuck earrings, not being able to get the earrings back in, etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until a child can take care of the earrings herself (because of the chance of swallowing pieces and other injuries), but the decision is a very personal and sometimes cultural one. My recommendations in this post were based both on personal experience and encounters with patients and welcome more of your ideas!

    August 30, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jose Cuervo

    First, line up about 6 tequila shooters... I have yet to find out what happens after that.

    August 30, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kelly

    Visit Safepiercing.org for the actual *professionals* when it comes to piercings.

    August 30, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Veggiehead

    Not for the squeamish: If you can't get an earring in the hole frontwards, sometimes you can do it from the back. Not long ago, I too-hastily put a curved earring wire into my pierced lobe at an angle, and found I couldn't get the thing through. Since I'd irritated the lobe pretty badly trying to get the wire to go in, I put ointment on it and didn't wear an earring for a few days. Then when I tried to put an earring in, it went only partway through. Nothing would make it move, and I thought the hole had healed over in the back. But then I thought of putting the post in backwards to check, and - bingo. I wore a post earring that way for several days, applying ointment occasionally. The "wrong" hole healed. I think I had inadvertently re-peirced my ear with the curved wire, and I had two openings in there, and one had a blind end. By putting the post in from the back, I avoided the "dead end" route.

    August 30, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. youareanimbecile

    This is absolutely unacceptable.

    August 30, 2010 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. imuneekru

    Individual biology does account for so much. I had my ears pierced with a gun at the mall when I was 13. I then discovered I'm slightly allergic to most metals–bummer. But my ears never closed up. I wear earrings at most once every other year–at weddings and interviews, to be precise. They go right in like I've been wearing earrings all my life. Funky.

    August 30, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Susan

    Read Elayne Angel's "The Piercing Bible". It's available on Amazon.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sam

    Have you tried titanium? Got to piercing.org go to Piercing Experience side for their store. I have many piercings from them, all healed beautifully, and are doing awesome. They are in Atlanta, GA. when I lived in other states I will fly to Atl. to get pierced! Here is info from Piercing Experience:
    the following materials for body jewelry that meet current standards for human implant:

    * Titanium (ASTM F136 and F67)
    * Uncolored quartz glass, soda-lime glass and borosilicate glass such as Pyrex (ASTM F1538)
    * Platinum (90% Pl: 10% Ir or 95% Pl: 5% Ru)

    While refined 24K gold is considered biologically inert, it is soft and easily scratched enough that it's impractical for body jewelry. There exists a body of evidence indicating that Niobium (Nb) seems inert and well accepted by the human body, along with titanium, tantalum, zirconium, pure refined gold, and platinum as the six most biocompatible elements. Although used in numerous surgical implant alloys Nb has not been adequately documented as successful by itself for surgical implants, and is soft enough to be scratched easily. Tantalum, its closest elemental neighbor is a common surgical implant material in use today and makes jewelry that is beautiful to begin with, but the surface finish is easily marred by fingerprints, dirt and grime and is also too soft.
    Consider anything else a novelty item and wear at your own risk. It may be wearable for less than 24 hours without noticeable irritation if people treat it a novelty and give their body a break from it regularly. Even the fanciest platinum and gold can cause allergic reactions. Wearing material not certified for implant for more than 24 hours means risk of allergic reaction and infection, since it has not been proven harmless to your soft tissue and bone. Most such materials will keep a piercing in an unhealthy state, making the skin in contact with the jewelry thinner and more permeable, increasing your risk of damage and infection. Abscess, yeast and fungal infections are commonly reported at the site of piercings in clinical literature, and this may be related to excessive moisture in the opening.

    I was the type that everything irritated me, then I went to Piercing Experience and will go to them for jewelry and piercings, for the rest of my life! They have an on line store and also will help you if you call them! I am one satisfied customer who can now wear Jewelry and get safe piercings :)

    August 31, 2010 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Gary

    I have a question if anyone can help. In 2nd or 3rd grade, 7-8 years ago my mom took me to get my left ear pierced. I had an earring in until about 6th grade. I took it out then, never had any problems. I'm in 10th grade now and I want to get one in the same spot. My mom moved out though, so I have no clue how to go about this.

    September 6, 2010 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frank

      If the hole is closed, go see a professional piercer or, if that's not an option, have a friend with a steady hand and a clean needle in a well-lit place do it for you.

      September 15, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
  21. Melanie

    I think that this article is very helpful. I am only 11 and I got my ears pierced only about 5 months ago. I have to go to soccer practice every 2 days for about 2 and a half hours. I have trouble putting the earrings back in after. These tips actually work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 23, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Victoria

    I took off my earrings for just a day and the holes almost completely closed. Desperately, I forced my way through though using some alcohol. It hurt though, but it worked!

    August 12, 2011 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. toosensative

    i have sensative ears and i have had my earrings out for about 4 months. how can i get them back in without it hurting too bad?

    September 11, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Heather

    OMG! Thanks so much for the lubricant advice. I used some vaseline and they slid right into my 6 year olds ears. She hasn't had earrings for about 3 weeks and they closed up a little. She had them pierced 2 years ago. Yay Vaseline!

    October 28, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tracey

    I got my ears pierced in March and everything was fine. I took them out after about 3 months and put new ones in and they got infected. I eventually got onto sleepers which I like, but a few days ago one fell out and I couldn't get it back in so I a family friend helped me (she is very experieced with anything to do with earrings) and she said that the backs have closed over. I can get the piercing in so you can even feel it from the back, but it just wont go through the back. She suggested putting metho or alcohol swabs on a stud and pressing it through then quickly putting the earring in. Will this work?

    October 21, 2012 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ostrich Feathers Plumes

    You are my inspiration, I own few web logs and infrequently run out from post :). "He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past." by George Orwell. Ostrich Feathers Plumes http://ostrichfeathers.info/

    February 15, 2013 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Bea

    Hi! I just got my ears pierced this year, and have had them over three months. I was changing them and cleaning them last night,after swimming, and the left earring went into the hole perfectly fine. But the right earring I could not get into the hole, the it started swelling. So I left it out, and today when I tried again, it wouldn't go in. I stretched the ear lobe a couple of time, then it went in but still wouldn't go through the other side. Is there a explanation for this? I am also going to Claire's, where I got my ears pierced for them to see if they can get it in,or, see what the problem is. If you have responded when I get back, I will thank you. See ya.

    September 11, 2013 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Matthew

    The person that peasred my ear did it way wrong.....…OUCH

    October 4, 2014 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply

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