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!

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.