Collegiate Health and Wellness

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New Piercing Fad Brings About Health Concerns

Piercing a variety of body parts and inserting jewelry can be traced to ancient times, and has become a very popular fad with adolescents and young adults today. However, there is much to be considered before proceeding with piercing.

First of all, consider that only three states in the U.S. have regulations for body piercers. The majority of the country has no requirements for licensure or training, leaving a serious potential for infectious disease transmission and disfigurement. Additionally, there are no age limitations, so individuals under 18 years of age can legally have any part of their body pierced without parental consent. Piercing establishments may have their own company restrictions, particularly if licensed for other procedures such as tatooing.

# It is extremely important to be aware of basic health and safety precautions in order to assure reduced risk of infection. More importantly, do not self-pierce or have a friend pierce for you. Body piercers should follow aseptic technique to avoid spreading infections such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and tetanus. Here are some general guidelines to be aware of before being pierced. Do not self-pierce or have a friend pierce for you
# Be sure your professional piercer uses new, disposable gloves for each piercing. Before piercing, the site should be cleansed thoroughly with an antimicrobial soap. Alcohol should not be used prior to piercing.
# Your piercer should be using sterile equipment. Either disposable or steam autoclaved (brown sterile markings on the package should be visible).
# No medication to numb the site should be used, although ice may be rubbed on the area.
# Following the piercing, do not touch the site except to clean with antimicrobial solution.
# Use jewelry that is stainless steel, at least 14K gold, niobium, or titanium to avoid allergic reactions and infections.
# Do not remove jewelry if the piercing site becomes infected, as this may lead to development of an abscess.
# Bathers and swimmers with fresh piercings should avoid hot tubs and swimming in lakes and rivers due to the risk of pseudomonas infection. It is recommended antibiotic ointment be applied prior to swimming and to wear a waterproof bandage over the site. The site should be cleaned with soap and water after swimming and additional antibiotic ointment applied.

# Each piercing site has special considerations. Ear piercing in cartilage may heal very slowly due to lack of circulation.
# Concealed sites such as the navel and nipple are covered with clothing that inhibits healing.
# Tongue piercing generally results in swelling and can easily become infected due to high bacteria in the mouth. Plastic backs for tongue jewelry should be used to avoid dental damage.
# Genital piercing may also become easily infected, particularly during intercourse prior to complete healing. “Double bagged” condoms should be used for penile piercings to avoid condom tears.

Athletes who are contemplating new piercings should schedule them during the off-season in order for the site to be well healed. Jewelry should be removed during contact sports. Jewelry should not be a problem during personal workouts as long as there is no rubbing of the site.

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