Can Astronauts Wear Earrings?

Have you ever found yourself curious about the nitty-gritty practices that astronauts adhere to and live by when they travel into space? You might have heard of astronauts wearing their most beloved rings, cleverly attached to their necklaces, while in space. This article goes a step further and asks if earrings can also be accommodated.

Astronauts shouldn’t wear earrings in space. While there seems to be no mandate prohibiting the practice, the adverse effects of microgravity on the human body, together with the inherent vulnerability of ear piercings, strongly suggest that it would be a bad idea.

Read on to learn the science behind microgravity spaceflight and an engaging discussion that illustrates why exactly astronauts shouldn’t wear earrings on space missions. 

Two Important Effects of Spaceflight on Astronauts

Spaceflight in microgravity is a world unto itself that can be studied extensively for centuries to come. 

Here, we briefly examine two exciting properties that scientists have discovered about spaceflight that help us understand the subsequent arguments against astronauts wearing earrings in space. 

Bacteria Grows Unpredictably in Space

According to a 2016 article in The Washington Post, each species of bacteria in all of its potential environmental conditions creates so much incredible variation in the way bacteria, in the aggregate, grows in space that it’s quite difficult to make generalized statements. 

Some bacteria grow twice as fast as they do on Earth, some bacteria don’t grow at all, and yet others actually decay as a result of being in space. The same bacteria in different cultures were found to grow in completely different ways. 

Having more generalized knowledge of how bacteria grow in space, including the exact determinants of such growth, would allow scientists to create a safer living environment for astronauts exposed to an array of health risks and known effects in every functional system of the body during spaceflight. 

The long list of health issues encountered by astronauts in space includes things as severe as genetic mutations and degradation in vision, to other still important problems that need to be addressed, such as a decrease in bone density and psychological changes such as a permanent distaste for a coffee that was an all-time favorite prior to drinking it in the adverse complications of space. 

Less Blood in Circulation and Microgravity

Astronauts lose quite a bit of body fluid when they are in space, including up to 22% of their total blood volume in circulation. This particular mechanism also implies other subsequent physiological mechanisms, all of which are driven mainly by the condition of microgravity. 

First, because there’s significantly less blood volume in the body, the heart muscles begin to atrophy due to the decreased workload placed through the heart organ. 

Second, because the heart muscles are atrophied, they have less power to pump the optimal levels of oxygenated blood to the brain. This sometimes causes astronauts to experience fainting or dizziness. 

Third, compounded by the effects of microgravity, this weaker heart pumping ability impedes the equitable distribution of blood throughout the body’s system. What actually happens is that a disproportionate amount of body fluids, including the blood, collects in the upper body regions.

Why Astronauts Should Not Wear Earrings in Space

We have now gained some perspective of how spaceflight in microgravity can be harmful for astronauts as they travel in space. 

But, what does this suggest about whether or not astronauts should be at liberty to wear earrings on their missions? 

Risk of Life-Threatening Blood Loss

One potential threat to the idea of astronauts wearing earrings in space is the probability of accidental lacerations or tears to the ear or other body parts as a result of handling the sharp parts of earrings in themselves. 

This alone may not sound like it’s any different from the very same risk on Earth. Well, not exactly. 

The process of bleeding in the microgravity condition of space is much messier than we may ordinarily expect. One of the unusual phenomena includes an impaired ability for the body to form blood clots. 

Depending on the severity of the bleeding from any accidental lacerations or tears inflicted by some part of an astronaut’s earrings, the situation can quickly become life-threatening – much quicker than the same scenario occurring here on Earth. 

To further complicate matters, the microgravity environment has been found to noticeably slow the wound healing process. Not really a recipe for success. 

Overcleaning and Infections

An astronaut can unintentionally “overclean” ear piercings with saline or harsher chemicals that are not sufficiently diluted with sterile water. 

Some of the potential reactions to this range from topical tenderness and a light puss emerging from the piercing to the eventual weakening of the area surrounding the piercing, which creates an environment where infections become much more likely. 

Infections can also occur outside the context of overcleaning pierced ears due to the virtual omnipresence of bacteria – even in space. 

The problem with bacterial infections in space is that the limited treatment options would take an astronaut down the road of a catch-22 situation. 

The inherent difficulty in properly tending to a bacterial infection in space would indicate the viability of taking antibiotics, which would support an immune system already weakened by the effects of microgravity. However, an antibiotic intervention would also kill the good bacteria inside the astronaut’s gut, and this is also damaging to the astronaut’s health. 

Essentially, it would seem that there is no apparent panacea for infections within microgravity that would motivate astronauts to risk their lives to wear earrings in space. 

Conclusion

The evidence seems overwhelmingly to recommend that astronauts exercise caution and entirely avoid wearing earrings while in space. 

This unusual yet important insight should come in handy should you ever find yourself embarking on a microgravity expedition in the future!