Body Piercing Safety

What you need to know to get pierced without getting ill.

Teens -- and even some parents -- are getting their bodies pierced in record numbers. But if not done by a skilled piercer and under sanitary conditions, the procedures can leave scars, and contaminated equipment has the potential for transmitting diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, tetanus, and HIV.

Choose the Right Place

Before deciding on a piercer for yourself or your child, visit the studio. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) -- one of the industry's few professional organizations -- suggests checking for these things:

  • Make sure the studio is clean and well lit.
  • Ask if the studio uses an autoclave (a sterilizing device that is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) and an ultrasonic cleaner.
  • Check for sterile, disposable piercing needles and individually wrapped tools.
  • Request surgical stainless steel, niobium, titanium, or 14- or 18-carat solid gold jewelry to avoid metal allergies.
Let it Heal

Remember that piercing isn't over after the jewelry is inserted. Dr. John Ward, APP medical liaison, says the first step of piercing aftercare is to eat well, avoid stress, and get plenty of rest. "Anything that puts stress on the immune system will delay the healing," says Dr. Ward.

Don't clean the piercing with isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine. They may dry the skin or harm still-forming skin cells. Instead, soak the pierced body part once a day in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm distilled water. Healing can take four weeks to a year.

If the pierced area hurts nonstop, bleeds, or oozes, see a doctor.

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