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Body Piercings

Why pierce?

If you are thinking about getting a piercing, FX recommends that you start off by considering why you want it. If it’s to fit in or because someone you know thinks it would be a great idea for you to get one, the idea might be worth re-thinking. A good rule of thumb for any kind of body art is that if you are not 100% sure that you want a piercing or tattoo – don’t get one. Wait it out a little bit to see how you are feeling in time.

Parental Permission:

Some places will not allow you to get a piercing without your parent’s consent if you are under 18 because body piercings are considered invasive procedures.

FX would like to stress that if you are under 18 and your parents will not give permission for you to get a piercing, do NOT do your own piercing or have a friend do it for you because you can end up dealing with some serious health problems.

The risks:

There are sanitary concerns when it comes to piercing. The American Red Cross is concerned enough with piercings that you cannot donate blood for a year after getting one.

Certain areas of the body can cause more problems than others – so do some research before settling on a site of the body to pierce. For example:

·         Infection is a more common problem with mouth and nose piercings because there is much more bacteria thriving in those areas than other parts of the body.

·         Tongue piercings can damage teeth over time.

·         Tongue, cheek, and lip piercings can cause gum problems.  

The following are also possible risks associated with body piercings:

·         Chronic infection

·         Uncontrollable or prolonged bleeding

·         Scarring

·         Hepatitis B and C

·         Tetanus

·         Skin allergies to the jewelry used

·         Abscesses or boils

·         Inflammation or nerve damage

·         Tuberculosis

·         HIV and AIDS

When not to get a piercing (or when to at least check in with your doctor first):

·         People with certain types of heart disease might have a higher risk of developing a heart infection after a body piercing.

·         There may be special concerns for people with diabetes, hemophilia, auto-immune disorders, or other medical conditions that may negatively influence the procedure or healing process. In cases like these, discussion with a healthcare professional before getting a piercing is recommended.

·         Checking in with a doctor is also advisable when there is a skin or tissue abnormality such as a rash, lump, bump, scar, lesion, mold, freckle, or abrasion.

·         Nipple, naval, or other piercings are usually not advised for women planning on becoming pregnant or who are currently pregnant.  

·         Piercings are also not recommended for those prone to keloids, an overgrowth of scar tissue in the area of a wound.

What to look for in a body piercing salon:

Visit a few piercing parlors and find one that appears to be run in a clean, organized way by people who are experienced at what they do. Before you get your piercing, ask around about the places you have looked at to see if people have had any problems with their piercings, such as getting infections or not having the piercing put in the exact right spot.

And here is what you should expect, step-by-step:

1.      The area that will be pierced (with the exception of the tongue), will be cleaned with a germicidal soap – meaning a soap that kills disease-causing bacteria.

2.      Your skin is punctured with a sharp, clean needle (NO piecing guns – they cannot be sterilized!)

3.      A sterilized piece of jewelry is attached to the area.

4.      The needle used in the piercing is disposed of in a special container to eliminate the risk of the needle or any blood coming in contact with anyone else.

5.      The pierced area is cleaned.

6.      The piercing is checked and the jewelry is adjusted (if necessary) by the person who performed the piercing.

7.      The person who did the piercing gives instructions on how to take care of the area so it heals correctly.

To find a professional piercer, ask around for some recommendations of reliable places. You can also use the website Association of Professional Piercers to find a piercing shop near you.

What to do before you get a piercing:

·         Be up to date with your immunizations, including hepatitis B and tetanus.

·         Make sure your teeth and gums are healthy if you plan on a tongue or mouth piercing.

·         Make sure the piercing shop is safe and clean (you want to see things like hand washing before procedures, the use of disposable gloves, the use or sterilized needles and jewelry, needles being properly disposed of in special, sealed containers, and that piercing guns are NOT being used even for ear piercings)

·         Find out if you are allergic to any metals in terms of the jewelry that might be used.

·         Make sure only nontoxic metals are used for body piercings by the shop you are looking at. Nontoxic metals include surgical steel, solid 14-karat or 18-karat gold, niobium, titanium, and platinum.

·         Ask your doctor if taking an antibiotic just before and after the piercing is advised (especially in the case of tongue piercings)

Caring for your new piercing:

·         Healing time depends on what you’ve had pierced. The tongue is one of the most painful things to have pierced, but does seem to heal the fastest. The naval and ear cartilage can take up to one year to heal completely.

·         Keep the pierced area clean to prevent infection. Clean the area daily with an antibacterial soap.

·         Don’t use alcohol as this will dry out the skin and kill the newly forming cells around the pierced area.  

·         Do not touch the pierced area without washing your hands first.

·         Do not use hydrogen peroxide as it can break down newly formed tissue.

·         If you have a mouth piercing, use an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash after eating.

·         Do not remove your jewelry for any length of time during the healing process or it will close

·         If you have concerns about how the pierced area is healing or worry it may be infected, meet with your doctor right away.

For more information on aftercare, see the Association of Professional Piercers webpage on Body Aftercare and Oral Aftercare.

When to see a doctor:

Obviously if your piercing just generally isn’t healing correctly, or there is anything else that makes you worry something is wrong, see a doctor right away.

If your piercing becomes infected, definitely see your doctor. Signs of infection include:

·         Excessive redness and/or tenderness around the pierced site

·         Prolonged bleeding

·         Pus

·         Change in skin color around the pierced area

 

For more information on body piercings, see the Children’s Hospital Boston Center for Young Women’s Health webpage on Body Piercing.