By Mia Simonsen, a Boston-area mom and former financial writer and editor.
If you’ve ever had your ears pierced, you know it’s quick and doesn’t hurt much. For many young girls it’s almost a rite of passage. Lots of guys have pierced ears, too. Wearing pierced earrings, like tattoos, is a fun way to express yourself or make a fashion statement. And taking care of newly pierced ears is pretty simple—you just make sure to clean the holes daily.
But piercing your nose, eyebrow, tongue or belly button is a bit different from pierced ears.
What You Should Know About Body Piercing
- In many states, it’s illegal for minors to get their bodies pierced.
- Some body piercing shops are not clean or safe and operate without a license.
- Every piercer should wash his or her hands with germicidal soap, wear disposable gloves, use sterilized needles (not a piercing gun because they’re not sterile), and dispose of the needles in a special sealed container.
- Before getting pierced, you need to have all of your vaccinations up to date, especially hepatitis B and tetanus shots.
- The warning signs of infection are excessive irritation, bleeding, pus and change in skin color around the pierced area.
- If you’re allergic to some metals, make sure the piercer only uses nontoxic ones like surgical steel, solid 14-karat or 18-karat gold, niobium, titanium or platinum.
- If you’re allergic to latex, make sure the piercer uses non-latex gloves.
- You shouldn’t get your body pierced if you have diabetes, certain skin disorders, a weak immune system or infections.
- You may not be able to donate blood for one year after getting your body pierced because the procedures can transmit blood-borne diseases, such as HIV.
Other Piercing Problems
Not to freak anyone out, but there are some other things to know about risks of body piercings. It’s better to know ahead of time what some of the longer term consquences might be.
- Damaged teeth if you get your tongue pierced (from biting the metal)
- Gum problems if you get your tongue, cheek and lips pierced
- Chronic infections
- Uncontrollable or prolonged bleeding
- Hepatitis B and C, HIV, AIDS and tetanus if needles are not sterile
- Skin allergies to the jewelry used in piercing
- Abscesses or boils (collections of pus that can form under your skin) at the site of the piercing
- Inflammation or nerve damage
Healing times vary from a few weeks to more than a year depending on the body part. It’s normal to experience some pain and swelling in a pierced area. But no matter what you do, don’t pick at it! And don’t use hydrogen peroxide to wash the wound. If you pierce your mouth, use an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash after eating. Definitely see a doctor if you think there’s something wrong or if you have an infection.
Do you know anyone who desperately wanted a piercing and ended up getting a serious infection? Too many teens that sneak off to a place that’s operating illegally and end up getting a botched job, and even worse, hepatitis or HIV. At least 28 states have laws that prohibit both body piercing on minors without parental consent. Some states punish those who pierce minors with fines and prison sentences. There’s really no reason why you can’t wait until you turn 18 to do what you want. After all—you might change your mind.
Last reviewed Nov. 3, 2014