The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this advice to its pediatricians: Warn teens about the dangers of tattoos, piercings and scarification (that’s creating scars in a design).
A report out Monday does acknowledge that most of the time these things can be done safely and the stigma that used to come with them is fading. Still the academy wants its doctors to make sure that teens are thinking through the long-term outcomes when it comes to these permanent modifications. In Texas, you have to be 18 or have a parent’s consent to get a tattoo or piercing.
Dr. Cora C. Breuner, who authored the report and is the chair of the AAP Committee on Adolescence, offers these talking points to pediatricians:
Tattoos and henna:
- Remind teens and their families that tattoos are permanent and removal is difficult, expensive and only partially effective.
- Those with a history of keloid formation should avoid body modifications that puncture the skin.
- Assess the sanitary and hygiene practices of the tattoo parlors and tattoo artists.
- Seek medical care if there are signs and symptoms of infection. Lesions that appear to grow or change within a tattoo require evaluation for neoplasms.
- There is a risk of hemolysis with red henna temporary tattoos for those with a positive glucose-6-dehydrogenase deficiency. Black henna temporary tattoos should be avoided because of the significant rate of sensitization.
- Patients should be counseled about the potential effects on employment and education if tattoos are visible.
Piercings and stretching:
- Rinsing with nonprescription oral cleansers or topical application of cleansers can help prevent infection after oral piercing.
- Antibiotic agents with good coverage against Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus species (e.g., fluoroquinolones) are advised when treating piercing-associated infections of the auricular (ear) cartilage.
- At piercing establishments, the piercer should be observed putting on new disposable gloves and removing new equipment from a sterile container.
- Teens contemplating tongue piercing should know of the high incidence of tooth chipping that can occur.
- Remind patients who have piercings to remove all jewelry during contact sports to avoid endangering the wearer and other players. Jewelry that interferes with mouthguards or protective equipment also should be removed before play. Nipple jewelry should be removed before breastfeeding.
- Counsel teens about potential implications on employment and education if piercings are visible.
- Inform teens with a personal or family history of keloids of the risk associated with scarification (the practice of intentionally irritating the skin to cause a permanent pattern of scar tissue) and other body modification processes.
- Infections resulting from scarification may be treated like other skin or soft tissue infections.