Pediatricians' Advice For Teens On Getting Tattoos Safely : Shots - Health News For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in on what teens and young adults (and their doctors and parents) need to know about safely getting piercings and tattoos.
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Teen Wants A Tattoo? Pediatricians Say Here's How To Do It Safely

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Teen Wants A Tattoo? Pediatricians Say Here's How To Do It Safely

Teen Wants A Tattoo? Pediatricians Say Here's How To Do It Safely

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now the latest news from the American Academy of Pediatrics - at their national conference in Chicago today, the academy is announcing new recommendations on tattoos and piercings for teens and young adults. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: On Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, climb a steep flight of stairs, and you're in a space filled with artwork and primary colors - the Body Electric tattoo parlor and piercing studio. Owner Brian Keith Thompson says he's never been so busy.

BRIAN KEITH THOMPSON: I feel like everyone has to be pierced now. It is a phenomenon.

NEIGHMOND: Piercings and tattoos are no longer the realm of bikers and gang members.

THOMPSON: When I first start getting tattooed in 2001 in this studio, I didn't see mothers and daughters getting matching tattoos.

NEIGHMOND: Today, it's common.

THOMPSON: Flowers are getting big. Trees and root systems - that's real big right now.

NEIGHMOND: And for people in their 20s, it's not just one tattoo or piercing - it's multiple. Take 23-year-old Ariana Marciano. She has 10 piercings and 75 tattoos.

ARIANA MARCIANO: I think that they're so cool. And I think they're, like, visually, really nice to look at.

NEIGHMOND: There's a praying mantis, a ram's head, a moth. Today, she's getting a ladybug.

MARCIANO: I like bugs.

NEIGHMOND: Dots on it back, a bit of rusty orange, and it's done in about 20 minutes. Because body art's now so mainstream and more teenagers are getting tattoos and piercings, pediatrician Cora Breuner says doctors need to be talking to patients and parents about them, which is why she and colleagues with the American Academy of Pediatrics developed guidelines to help doctors answer questions. First off, she says, doctors need to emphasize to patients that it's up to them to make sure the tattoo and piercing studio is hygienic.

CORA BREUNER: ...That the needles that are being used are pulled out of a clean, sterile packet, that the person doing the piercing or tattooing is wearing gloves.

NEIGHMOND: While infection is rare, she says, doctors should know symptoms and explain them to patients - for example, redness that spreads beyond the tattoo or piercing, increasing pain or fever. Before getting a tattoo or piercing, immunizations, especially tetanus, should be up to date. And with piercing, it's important to know healing times differ.

BREUNER: For example, if you get a piercing in your ear, healing time can be anywhere from one to two weeks. But if you get a piercing in your tongue, it can be up to six weeks. If you get a piercing done in your bellybutton, it could take up to nine months for that to heal.

NEIGHMOND: And of course, with tattoos, the main thing for a young person to bear in mind is that they're permanent. Body Electric owner Brian Keith Thompson often counsels young clients against tattoos that are easily visible on hands, neck and fingers.

THOMPSON: And I'll tell them, no, I think you're 19. I think you should wait.

NEIGHMOND: Many professions, he says, are still conservative when it comes to tattoos.

THOMPSON: Definitely stay away from the face. We call that the job stopper. You don't want to get employed, tattoo your face.

NEIGHMOND: Tattoo removal by laser is difficult, expensive and only partially effective. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

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