Body piercing — Risks and precautions

Piercings have become a norm in pop culture. So if you are planning on getting your belly button/eyebrow pierced, read this article to understand the risks and learn about necessary precautions.

What is body piercing?

Body piercing refers to punching a hole in a part of the body, so as to create an opening for jewellery to be worn.

What parts of the body can you pierce?

Most commonly pierced body parts are earlobes and nose. Some other common places to pierce include: eyebrow, tongue, belly button, lip. Some also get piercings on their nipples, genitals and ear cartilage (the hard part around the ear).

How is piercing done?

There are two methods of piercing.

Piercing guns/gunshot: Here a piercing gun fires a needle to puncture a hole in the skin. This is typically used to pierce earlobes.

Hand piercing: This involves using a hollow needle or sharpening the tip of a stud or ring to punch a hole into the skin. This method is used to pierce other parts of the body.

How safe are piercing guns?

Piercing guns are considered safe only if they are single-use guns or are guns which have sterilised disposable cartridges. Do not get a piercing from a reusable piercing gun that does not have sterilised disposable cartridges, as they could potentially cause infections and also risk transmission of some blood-borne infections.

Also do not get a gunshot piercing for any other part of your body except your ear. Doing so puts you at a higher risk of injury in comparison to hand piercing.

Precautions to take before piercing:

  • If you want a piercing, first find a clean, safe piercing shop.
  • Make sure the person performing the piercing washes his/her hands with an anti-bacterial soap before performing the piercing.
  • Ensure he/she wears a clean pair of gloves.
  • Most importantly, ensure the piercing equipment is sterilised and insist on single-use needles.
  • Do not try to pierce yourself or let anybody else who is not a professional do it. This will keep infections at bay.
  • Stick to silver or gold jewellery for some time after the piercing, as other metals can cause allergies and lead to infection.

What can increase risk of problems from body piercing?

The ability of your body’s immune system to fight infections can be tampered by many things. If you have diabetes, heart problems or a weakened immune system make sure you check with your doctor for added precautions.

If you are taking steroids or blood thinners, you must check with your doctor.

Signs of infection in the pierced area:

  • Redness and swelling in the pierced area.
  • You’ll feel pain when you touch your piercing.
  • You may have a yellowish, foul-smelling discharge from the place.
  • If you have a fever or experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor.

Treating piercing infections:

Leave your jewellery in unless your doctor tells you to take it out, as it will ensure proper drainage and prevent an abscess (a collection of pus). In many cases, the infection can be treated without losing the piercing.

Minor infections may be treated with the following:

  • Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments that you can rub onto the infected area.
  • Using a warm compress on the infected area.
  • Mild sea salt soaks

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