Parents have been pinning me down with questions about what to say to their teenager who wants to have their ears or other body parts pierced. Let me see if I can push through with some information on this topic. Teenagers may want to get their body pierced to fit in better with their peers, to give them their own identity (which they dont think they have during adolescence), or just to shock their parents as a sign of independence. Anyone under age eighteen needs his or her parents permission to get a piercing, but some young people get piercings without such permission by having it done by people who are unlicensed and who do not take appropriate health precautions. Complications of a body piercing can include bleeding, pain, large bumpy scars called keloids, possible transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, and infection at the site, which can then spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Infection is a common complication of piercings in the mouth and nose because of the abundant bacteria that live in those areas. Tongue piercings can cause damage to teeth. Tongue, cheek, and lip piercings can cause gum problems. And even if it is done with proper sterile technique, a piercing can cause an allergic reaction because of some of the metals used. If your teenager wants a piercing, talk with him or her about why, and make sure the medical risks are discussed. Check to be sure that your childs vaccinations are up-to-date, including the vaccination for Hepatitis B. If he or she decides to get a piercing, make sure it is done by someone who understands the importance of cleanliness and infection control. Needles should be sterilized and used only once. Other equipment should be sterilized between procedures, and gloves should be worn at all times. You should call around and find a place that will do the piercing safely, and then insist that you accompany your child there, to make him or her less apt to just have it done by a friend. Finally, remember that even when children decide to get a piercing, they still need your unconditional love and support, so keep up those talks with your teenager, and remember to focus on what your teen does well, rather than what has been done to his or her body. Hopefully tips like this will stick with you, the next time you are concerned that your teenager wants to get a piercing.

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