New report cites risks youths face when getting tattoos, piercings

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CHICAGO — Recognizing a growing trend, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first report on tattoos and piercings, warning parents and teens of rare but possible risks, and offering safety tips.

The report will be published in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Tattooing is much more accepted than it was 15 to 20 years ago,” lead author Dr. Cora C. Breuner said in a statement released Monday. “In many states, teens have to be at least 18 to get a tattoo, but the regulations vary from place to place. When counseling teens, I tell them to do some research, and to think hard about why they want a tattoo, and where on their body they want it.”

In “Adolescent and Young Adult Tattooing, Piercing and Scarification,” authors note a 2014 survey that shows 76 percent of 2,700 people with a tattoo or piercing believe it hurt their chances of getting a job, according to an AAP release announcing the report.

The report also explains how the rate of complications, mainly infection, is unknown, and advises teens to research a facility before getting a tattoo or piercing, the release states. Facilities should be clean and offer tips on how to care for a tattoo or piercing.

The report also notes that scarification, the practice of burning or branding words or images into the skin, is not as highly regulated and is banned in some states.

The AAP also offers guidance to pediatricians on how to distinguish typical tattooing or piercing from nonsuicidal self-injury syndrome. Those with the affliction tend to impulsively cut, scratch or burn themselves, the release states.

“In most cases, teens just enjoy the look of the tattoo or piercing, but we do advise them to talk any decision over with their parents or another adult first,” said Dr. David Levine, co-author of the report. “They may not realize how expensive it is to remove a tattoo, or how a piercing on your tongue might result in a chipped tooth.”

“These services have come a long way, safety-wise, but it’s best to proceed with caution,” Breuner said.