Over the past few years, body art and body piercings have become more popular among teenagers. Choosing to get a part of your body pierced is a big decision with very real consequences. Piercing is an invasive, permanent process which can lead to infections at the site of your piercing as well as more serious infections like Hepatitis B. There are a few things you need to consider before you make this decision to make sure you are happy with your piercing and that you stay safe.
Before you pierce
You should know that there are many places which won't allow you to get a piercing without your parent's consent. This is one of the reasons why you should discuss this decision with your parents.
You should also discuss this decision with your doctor. You need to know if all of your immunizations are up to date-especially your Hepatitis and Tetanus vaccines. There are some heart conditions which will put you at an increased risk of infection after you've gotten your piercing. In addition, if you have any allergies, are diabetic, have a bleeding disorder or have any problems with your immune system, getting your body pierced is not a safe idea. It is also good to know if you are prone to getting keloids or scars as this may happen at the site of your piercing. It is also important to discuss any medicines that you are on with your doctor. Certain medications like Aspirin, Motrin or Advil can increase your risk of bleeding after your piercing.
Once you have decided to get your piercing, you should have a place where you know you can go for medical attention. Also if you plan to get a tongue or mouth piercing, be sure your teeth and gums are clean and healthy.
Where should you go?
Body piercing is regulated by the government in Florida. This means that most piercing shops know what precautions they are required to take. You still need to make sure the piercing shop is safe and clean.
The person doing the piercing should wash his or her hands with anti-bacterial soap and should wear fresh, disposable gloves during the piercing. They should use disposable or sterilized instruments. This means the piercing shop needs to have an autoclave or sterilizing machine. The needle being used should be new and disposed of in a special sealed container after the piercing. They should not use a piercing gun since they are NOT sterile. It is important to find out what type of jewelry the piercing shop will use, since some people have allergic reactions to certain types of metals. You should know if you have any metal allergies before getting your piercing. Avoid jewelry that contains nickel which is known to cause allergic reactions in many people.
MOST importantly do NOT let your friends do the piercing for you and do NOT do it yourself. There is a much greater risk of infections and other complications.
What happens afterwards?
Depending on the body part pierced, the healing can take from a few weeks to an entire year. The person doing the piercing is required to give you written instructions on how to make sure your new piercing heals correctly and what to do if there's a problem. Pay attention to the aftercare instructions.
Don't pick or tug at the area, be sure to keep it clean and do NOT touch it without washing your hands first. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the area because if can break down the healing tissue. If you get a mouth piercing be sure to use an antibacterial mouthwash after eating. If your piercing doesn't heal correctly or if you feel something may be wrong, it is very important that you seek medical attention. If the skin that has been pierced becomes red, swollen or painful you need to let your parents or your doctor know. You should also stay out of pools, the ocean or hot tubs until your piercing is healed since this can increase your risk of getting an infection.
MOST importantly think about your decision carefully. You should consider many things before getting your piercing and make sure you have though carefully about your decision. Do not use alcohol or drugs to try to decrease the pain of piercing. Also, do NOT make this decision while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not only can it cause you to make a bad decision, but it can cause you to bleed more after the procedure. Do not get more than one piercing at time. This increases the pain and increases your risk of getting an infection.
You should talk to your parents and your doctor about your decision since they both want to help you make healthy choices.
Mary Romano, MD