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.
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:
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.