What are Ear Tags?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Surgical removal may be required to treat ear tags on infants.
Surgical removal may be required to treat ear tags on infants.

Ear tags or preauricular tags are one of many usually small congenital defects that might be seen on an infant or slightly older child. The tag is usually a small flap made primarily of skin that is slightly in front of the ear. Some babies have only one and this finding is not significant of anything necessarily. Other infants may have several ear tags and these could be associated with certain defects of which skin tags are a symptom or with conditions that cause unusual development of skin tags.

Ear tags can potentially cause hearing problems.
Ear tags can potentially cause hearing problems.

Many times an ear tag is singular and will signify very little in an infant or child’s life. However, due to the potential that the tag might mean something else, including possible risk to hearing, the presence of one should be brought to the attention of a child’s doctor. Since the ear tags are skin colored they may not always be noticed at first.

Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.
Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.

Children may also have small pits in front of the ears, and these too may be light colored. Changes in appearance of a pit where it looks red, or suddenly turns from a pit into a bump that may be filled with pus, suggest getting immediate medical attention in order to treat for what could be infection. Typically appearance of ear tags doesn’t change, though they may grow a little with time. Fast growth tends to be an unusual occurrence and should be mentioned to a doctor.

Anesthesia may be administered during the surgical removal of ear tags.
Anesthesia may be administered during the surgical removal of ear tags.

In many cases when ear tags are benign, parents still opt to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. Since these can grow over time, it may significantly promote a child’s self-esteem or comfort level. Of course if the child is still in infancy, he or she is unlikely to note presence of an ear tag.

Usually removal is a procedure that may be done while an infant is awake with some local anesthesia. A more complicate surgery might be required if the tag contains cartilage from the ear or if there are several ear tags that need to be excised. In most cases the surgery is fairly simple: tag is cut off and the skin is sewn back together. Anesthesia of a local or general type may be up to the surgeon’s discretion depending on the degree to which it might be necessary to stabilize a patient or the degree to which a surgery could create trauma for the infant or young child. Parents can certainly weigh in on this decision too.

With surgery, most times this signifies the end of an infant getting new ear tags. However, some people seem genetically prone to develop these and could develop more in the future. This isn’t always predictable but careful watching of a child to look for pits, tags, cysts or other growths is warranted.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon927332

I have a small one just in front of my right ear. It was tied-off when I was an infant, so it is just a small little bump. There seems to be a bit of cartilage at it's base.

My newborn daughter has one too, only hers is in front of her left ear. The pediatrician said there wasn't any cartilage in hers, though. We will likely get it tied off at some point, with her being a girl and all, for cosmetic reasons, but I think it's pretty cool that she has one too, actually. It isn't really that big, but just the same, I'm hoping they can keep a little bit on there for her, like I have.

I would like to know more about this congenital trait (its scientific name, the gene associated with it, its origin, etc.), but unfortunately the internet is full of much more extreme examples of birth abnormalities, and very little on this, even though the nurses and doctors said it is common.

They did test her for hearing and kidney issues, which can apparently coincide with having these kinds of "skin/ear tags." As with me, there are no issues there.

Thanks for providing this much information, at least.

anon326143

I have a big one on my left ear and it has some cartilage at its root. I was teased and questioned about it during my childhood and I often replied it was the result of an explosion I survived! Now I'm 27 and I decided to keep it long ago as I feel it's a part of me and I don't give a damn about what people think.

anon262782

I have an ear tag, which I assume is the reason my daughter was born with one. Mine is on my right ear, however it blends in a little with the contour of my outer ear. My daughter's ear tag, however, is much more obvious.

I still have insecurities because of my ear tag. Growing up I was teased and often questioned about it which made me feel different. I will be looking into having hers removed so that she does not experience the same as I did.

I think it is great that some people have accepted their unique tag, however, I unfortunately did not have the same experience.

anon175943

I'm almost 30 and have one on each ear! The bigger one on the right side has pointy cartilage in it. My parents got it checked out and decided to wait until I was old enough to make my own choice regarding removal. I decided to keep them, they're neat! And they are part of me, I love them.

pharmchick78

It is worth noting that not all ear tags are soft and fleshy -- they often have a core of cartilage, which makes them have a slightly firmer feel.

And although having an ear tag is not usually dangerous, having more than two can be a sign of a genetic issue, so you should have your child examined if this is the case.

FirstViolin

Is it always necessary to get an ear tag removed? If the ear tag is not interfering with the child's health, do you really have to get it removed?

Are there any benefits to getting the ear tag removed, other than aesthetic ones, of course? Or more to the point, are there any dangers to not getting these things removed?

TunaLine

I never knew that people could get these -- the only ear tags I knew about were livestock ear tags. My grandparents raise cattle, and they put ear tags in all of their cattle for identification purposes.

Some people still use tattoos instead of cow ear tags, but I'm pretty sure that most people have moved over into custom cattle ear tags. Of course they have more than ear tags for just cattle, they've got sheep ear tags, goat ear tags, etc. And apparently human ear tags, though of a very different nature!

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    • Surgical removal may be required to treat ear tags on infants.
      By: Francois du Plessis
      Surgical removal may be required to treat ear tags on infants.
    • Ear tags can potentially cause hearing problems.
      By: dimedrol68
      Ear tags can potentially cause hearing problems.
    • Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.
      By: chai2070
      Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.
    • Anesthesia may be administered during the surgical removal of ear tags.
      By: dpyancy
      Anesthesia may be administered during the surgical removal of ear tags.