Safety Pointers

Teenagers express themselves in a variety of ways, and body piercing is one of the most popular. Girls aren't just piercing their earlobes anymore. Now girls and boys alike are piercing all parts of the ears, as well as lips, noses, eyebrows, tongues, cheeks, belly buttons and more! Find out what you need to know before your teen gets a body piercing.

Teen Girl with PiercingMost piercing places won't allow someone under the age of 18 to get a piercing without a parent's consent. Before you give your consent, do your homework to make sure your child stays safe.

Investigate the piercing shop

Body piercing is not regulated in all states, so the responsibility lies with you to make sure you locate a facility that provides a safe, sanitary environment. If you feel the least bit uncomfortable in the shop -- if it doesn't feel clean or you can't get answers to all your questions -- do not hesitate to look elsewhere for the piercing.

  • The shop should be clean.
  • The instruments being used should be sealed in packets. If the shop does not use disposable instruments, then it must have an autoclave to sterilize the instruments.
  • Make sure the person doing the piercing thoroughly washes her hands with germicidal soap before donning fresh, disposable gloves (like those seen in doctor's offices).
  • The needle used for the piercing must be new and unused. Some shops use piercing guns. A single-use gun uses sterile jewelry to make the hole; then the gun is discarded. Other piercing guns are not sterile and are not recommended.

Visit various piercing shops with this checklist and observe others getting piercings so you can determine whether or not it's the right facility for your child.

The piercing process

As the name indicates, a body piercing is a puncture to the skin made by a needle. A piece of jewelry, like an earring or bellybutton ring, is then inserted into the pierced area.

A reputable piercing facility will likely follow a routine such as this:

  • The body part to be pierced is cleaned with a germicidal soap to kill disease-causing bacteria.
  • The skin is punctured with a clean, very sharp needle.
  • A sterilized piece of jewelry is inserted into the pierced area.
  • The piercing needle -- and anything else with blood on it -- is disposed of in a sealed biohazard waste container.
  • The pierced area is cleaned with rubbing alcohol or antibacterial ointment.
  • The jewelry is adjusted for proper fit.

The piercing professional should provide instructions on how to keep the piercing clean and healthy, as well as how to identify and treat problems resulting from the piercing.

Health Risks

There are potential health problems that can result from piercings, including prolonged bleeding, scarring, hepatitis, abscesses or nerve damage.

Even with good care, it's fairly common for piercings to become infected. Some parts of the body -- especially the mouth and nose, where millions of bacteria live -- are more prone than others to these infections. If an infection is present, the pierced site may turn red, warm and painful and may ooze thick pus. Your child may become feverish.

The infection won't go away on its own and may even spread, so it's important to treat it. A doctor may recommend cleaning the piercing and putting antibacterial ointment on it. If the infection hasn't cleared up within a week or so, check in with the doctor again.

Piercings of the mouth -- tongue, cheeks, or lips -- can cause tooth damage and/or gum problems. With tongue piercings, increased saliva can be expected.

Individuals who are prone to keloids should avoid body piercings. Keloids are an overgrowth of scar tissue in wound areas.

People with certain types of heart disease, as well as those with allergies, skin disorders, immune system problems, or diabetes, should also proceed with caution. It is recommended that individuals with such conditions consult first with a medical professional. Anyone considering a body piercing should make sure their hepatitis and tetanus immunizations are up to date.

The jewelry

Some kids have allergic reactions to certain types of metal, and it's important to know this before getting a piercing.

Only nontoxic metals should be used for piercings. These include surgical steel, platinum, titanium, and solid 14-karat or 18-karat gold.

After the piercing has healed, the jewelry can be changed. All jewelry should be soaked in rubbing alcohol before it's inserted into the hole.

The healing process

Healing times range from a few weeks to more than a year, depending on the body part.

Good care is important:

  • Do not let your child pick or tug at the new piercing.
  • Do not allow anyone to touch the piercing without first washing their hands.
  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide on the piercing -- it can break down the tissue that's trying to form.
  • Tongue piercings should be cleaned with alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash, especially after eating.

If you suspect any problems with the piercing, seek medical attention. Taking proper care of the pierced body part is a lifelong commitment.

Some kids would rather forego the safe route and let a friend do the piercing than try to obtain a parent's consent. Talk with your son or daughter about the dangers of having a body part pierced by someone other than a professional. Together, you can find online pictures of some of the horrors that result from infected piercings and other piercings gone wrong. No teen wants to express herself with an infection.

Piercings only look cool if they're healthy!

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Comments on "Teens and body piercing: What all parents should know"

Howard Bright March 16, 2013 | 6:44 PM

I have a 15 year old daughter and she wants a belly piercing. What kind of advice would you give a father who slightly out of touch.

Trenton Hammons August 27, 2010 | 8:29 AM

I just got my ear pierced is it natural for it to hurt for one hour ?

Michelle L August 24, 2010 | 9:06 PM

I'm really impressed with how unbiased this article is. Usually parenting articles are one-sided, invariably advocating the most conservative solution, and criticizing all other outcomes. I really appreciated this article that simply informed of risks and protocols without a bunch of opinion bull thrown in about how it's a good or bad idea. It's very irritating to have to read the snide comments and personal opinions of the writer thrown in as though they were fact. If newspapers were written this way the world would be a better place.

Mikey (an actual piercer) August 21, 2010 | 10:00 PM

While this is a very informative article there are a few bits of misinformation here. First off no professional piercer will ever use a piercing gun. Even if single use a piercing gun and the jewelry used cannot be properly sterilized for use with fresh body piercings. Piercing guns are only designed for use on earlobes, and even on them they do far more trauma to the tissue than a piercing needle. They destroy tissue, create crooked piercings, excessive scar tissue and rarely the trauma can result in deformities in the area pierced. In most European nations piercing guns and piercing studs are illegal! Specifically because they are an inferior, archaic, unsanitary and far more traumatic way to do a piercing. Do not ever, under any conditions, allow any piercing to be preformed on you with a piercing gun. Second, rubbing alcohol has no place anywhere near a piercing. Not cleaning the area before hand. Not cleaning the piercing afterward. Not cleaning jewelry going into a piercing. The only thing I use rubbing alcohol for is the polish stainless steel in my work area only after it is cleaned with a germicidal solution. Rubbing alcohol only dries out tissues, promotes scarring and prolongs healing. Also, the overgrowth of scar tissue that often occurs with body piercing is often hypertrophic scarring, not keloids. Keloids are much larger and extend well away from the piercing hole, and are far rarer than hypertrophic scars. Hypertrophic scars break down with treatment and time. Keloids often times have to be removed surgically. Lastly, you should never allow anyone, under any circumstances, touch your piercing without gloves on. It doesn't matter if it's healed. It doesn't matter if they have washed their hands. You should only touch your own piercings after you washed your hands and only to change the jewelry or to tighten the beads. And it's wise to wash your hands afterwords as well.

Randi Dunbar August 21, 2010 | 8:01 PM

Hi my name is Randi i was wondering how much it will cost for me to just get my tong pierced this will be my first time i am 21 years old i dont live that far from were your shop is i was hopping you can send me an E-mail back when you have the time to let me know how much it will come to i think i have the money to get it done but i am not 100% sure all i am looking for right now is just a price on getting my tong pierced i herd about this shop from friend of the family thank you for your time Randi

cammie March 09, 2009 | 10:01 AM

piercings are cool and they show how yuo are not scared of getting something piercied doesnt matter but get it done by somebody who knows how to do it. cause it looks gross when you do it yourself.

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