Piercing? Stay Safe!

9 06 2010

Thousands of years ago, Egyptians loved to pierce their ears and wear jewelry as symbols of their status. However, only the Pharaoh was allowed to pierce his navel, and if others were caught doing so, they were put to death.

Mayans pierced their tongues for spiritual reasons, and the Roman centurions had their nipples pierced to hold their capes (ouch!), and to demonstrate loyalty to the emperor.

If you’re thinking of piercing, or even if you’ve done it but want more piercings, let’s talk safety.

The mall:

  • Piercing “staff” are often young and inexperienced.
  • The piercing gun is usually not a single-use device, and cannot be adequately cleanedInfections can come with piercings, if the staff don’t sterilize as they should, or if they reuse equipment. Some of those infections can be serious—hepatitis, tetanus or even TB.

The doctor’s office:

  • The healthcare provider that pierces your ears will do so with a sterile, single-use device, all while following standard precautions, which will significantly decrease the odds of infection.
  • Your provider might lack experience, so there’s no telling how the job will turn out, but it beats living with a disease for the rest of your life. Still, you may not be thrilled if you end up with lopsided earrings.

Your BFF’s house:

  • Tools and supplies may be purchased by anyone.  This does not mean your BFF, or her mom, is qualified to pierce your ears.  Due to lack of experience and the high probability that standard precautions will not be followed adequately, you’re going to want to rethink this option.

A professional shop:

  • Make sure that the piercer is a professional, follows standard precautions, and runs a clean shop. He should wear disposable gloves and change them between customers.
  • The piercer should be trained to avoid cross-contamination.
  • A sterile, single-use, long, smooth, hollow needle with a razor sharp tip, applied using a sterile mechanical device into a single-use sterile cork is likely the safest way to have your ears or other parts pierced.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about any medical information that might be pertinent to your procedure.  Depending on the piercing, you might require prophylactic antibiotics, or the procedure might not be recommended at all.

A special note on tongue piercings and splitting: it’s important to read the warnings put out by the American Dental Association. It’s risky and the damage can be significant—and permanent.