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The Informed Parent

Body Piercings

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Apr. 21, 2003

Body piercing have become more popular the past several years. One study recorded a piercing rate of 27% in a sample of college students, and another reported a rate of 51%. Young people are becoming more creative and daring with their body art choices. Years ago the primary sites were ears, navels and nasal areas. Now, in addition to these sensitive areas, some venture to include genital piercing, brandings or implanting objects such as plastics, ivory or wood beneath the skin.

There are certain risks involved when penetrating the skin. The most common long-term concern is the development of hepatitis B and C, which can result from contaminated needles. Also, some metallic oxide dyes that are used in various tattoo procedures can subsequently become heated, causing burns during future MRI procedures.

Tongue infections are another definite problem, which can cause complications. One can determine such an infection  whereby the tongue will become red, swollen and tender to the touch. Pus can commonly be expressed from the hole. There may be infected lymph nodes and sore throat. Approximately 20% of oral piercing become infected.

Other tongue piercing health complications one should be aware of include hemorrhage, airway restriction from tongue swelling, or chemical burns from aftercare products for the piercing. Occasionally, small jewelry parts can become dislodged and cause complications. It should be noted that on rare occasions endocarditic, or even brain abscess can result from tongue piercing.

Body piercings often have immediate, short-term or long-term complications. Teens who embark on these types of body art need to have the knowledge of its consequences.

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