Pediatricians offer first advice on teen tattoos, piercings

- The mainstreaming of tattoos and body piercings among teenagers has spurred the American Academy of Pediatrics to publish its first clinical report on body modifications in teens. The report suggests that teens do some research before getting a tattoo, and details possible medical complications, which, while uncommon, should be discussed with a pediatrician.

“Tattoos and body piercings are an increasingly popular form of self-expression, but it is important for young people to carefully consider the consequences and potential risks associated with body modifications,” according to the report, Adolescent and Young Adult Tattooing, Piercing and Scarification, which will be published in the October 2017 issue of Pediatrics.

Dr. Cora C. Breuner, MD -- lead author of the report – offers guidance for both tattoo-seeking teens and their doctors. The most serious complication from a tattoo or piercing is infection. Before getting a tattoo or piercing, you should make sure the salon is sterile, clean and reputable. The facility should also be regulated by the state and provide clients with information on how to care for the area that has been tattooed or pierced.

Anyone considering a tattoo should make sure that their immunizations are up to date and that they are not taking any medication that compromises their immunity.

Scarification, which involves branding or cutting text or images into the skin, is not as highly regulated as tattooing or piercing and is banned in some states.

For doctors, the report offers guidance for distinguishing between typical body modification from efforts to harm oneself, called nonsuicidal self-injury syndrome. The syndrome, which includes cutting, scratching or burning oneself, is a more impulsive or compulsive action that is associated with mental health disorders.

Aside from medical risks, there report cites possible professional consequences. In a 2014 survey, 76 percent of 2,700 people interviewed said they believed that a tattoo or piercing had hurt their chances of getting a job.

Laser removal of tattoos can range from $49 to $300 per square inch of treatment area, according to the report.

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