You’ve passed by them on the streets or at the mall and you have looked in curiosity and possibly turned away in disgust. You know what I mean–they are the teens of today–what used to be the fringe, the counterculture, who have now become more mainstream, the ones with the nose rings and pierced tongues. You silently wonder “how can they eat like that or blow their noses?” And then your 16-year-old daughter returns from school one day talking about her friend Mallory’s new navel ring. She thinks it’s cool and wants one. You are dead-set against the idea, but how do you handle this situation?
Some teens respond positively to “Not as long as your under my roof” and they wait until they move out or go to college. Other teens may say “Well then I’ll just leave,” and will move out. According to Woodinville, Washington, therapist, Elaine Pool, “You know your teen best.” You should know what kind of limits work and what kind of limits don’t. If your teen is one with whom you can reason, ask her to help you research the topic, and if after the research it still seems like a good idea, then you can negotiate.
Research the topic together and get all the facts, including sitting in on one someone else’s procedure so you and your teen get a realistic picture of what happens. What exactly is body piercing? Body piercing is the creating of a hole, with a needle, in a part of the skin in order to wear a ring or stud through that part. This part of the skin may be the navel, eyebrow, nostril, septum, ear, nipple, tongue, etc. The holes created for body piercing are permanent, even if after the first year, the person never wears the body jewelry again.
In addition to the permanency, piercings are associated with dangerous health risks. Body piercings can become painfully infected. And, according to Dr. Absar H. Haaris, of St. Agnes Hospital in Philadelphia, getting a body piercing “increases one’s risk for Hepatitis B and/or C” and HIV/AIDS. The increased risk is so great that the American Red Cross and regional blood banks have started to refuse blood donations from people with body piercings.
The health risks and permanent scarring are the long-term effects, but what are the more immediate effects of body piercing, since often teenagers think more about the present than ten or 20 years from now? Body piercing is a painful process, and most reputable companies will not do the piercing if the person has not eaten for fear of fainting. (No anesthesia is used.)
Before the needle pierces the skin, the area where the piercing will take place will be cleaned with an anti-bacterial disinfectant. Then the needle will be forced through the skin, quickly pulled out and a stainless steel or a 14-karat gold stud or hoop put in its place. The area will then once again be cleaned with an anti-bacterial disinfectant, and will need to continue being cleaned by the “piercee” a minimum of three times a day for the next few months. The jewelry will also need to be turned just as often so the skin does not grow attached to the ring or stud.
Chance of infection during the first few months is high, as any clothing that rubs against the area can, at the very least irritate the area, and at the worst contaminate the area. Piercings, such as those in the navel, will take as long as four to six months to heal properly, thus increasing your teen’s chance of infection. If the area gets too infected, does not heal properly, or has a reaction to the metal jewelry, the jewelry will have to be removed and the area allowed healing time. The hole will still exist, but nothing will be able to reside in that hole.
All in all, the health risks of body piercings are great. And so are the expenses involved. The procedure and design (or jewelry) alone can cost between $60 and $100. Besides the expense of the procedure itself is the expense the fad may cost your teen in the future. Many companies will not hire people with visible body piercings (or even the visible holes left over from one). Body piercings may end up limiting your teen’s career potential, unless of course he wants to be in the NBA. (Think Dennis Rodman.) But have you ever seen a lawyer, doctor or electrician with a nose ring?
So what are your teen’s alternatives if s/he still wants the “cool” look of a body piercing without all the pain, expense and health risks? Body jewelry for nonpierced people is available from stores like Claire’s Boutiques. Clip-on nose rings and navel rings are available in a variety of sizes, styles and colors of metal. Temporary body jewelry may be enough to appease your teen until you both finish your research on the procedures. And if it is that important to your teen’s life, ask if he’ll wait until he’s 18, the legal age for piercing in many states; then if he still feels the need, grant your permission, if not your blessing. Because some things, when he’s old enough, he’ll just have to decide for himself.
A GREAT BOOK ON THE SUBJECT FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Dangers of Tattoos and Body Piercing by Laura Reybold (The Rosen Publishing Group) provides an objective look at both body art, explaining the terminology, history, processes, dangers and care. This book is part of the Everything You Need to Know series, written specifically for teenagers.