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Dr. Manny's Health Beat: Do's & Don'ts For Safe Body Piercing

While body piercing remains a popular trend for today's youth, recent cases of life threatening infections have once again called into question the health and safety issues of this practice.

Earlier this month, it was reported that an 18-year old Indiana woman lost a breast due to a rare infection that developed as a result of nipple piercing. A diabetic, the woman's mother complained that the piercing shop did not adequately question her about personal risk factors, or take the necessary safety precautions, before the piercing was performed.

Just this past October, a Massachusetts woman was convicted of child abuse because she failed to seek medical attention for her teenage daughter who nearly died from an infection that developed from a belly button piercing.

If people are not properly screened, or if the equipment is not properly sterilized, then conditions such as hepatitis, HIV or tetanus could result. Understanding that piercing carries inherent risks, what can a person considering facial or body piercing do to ensure that the procedure is performed safely and that they are not subjecting themselves to health risks?

The Association Professional Piercers provides general information for both piercers and the public. Before you go for your piercing, you should visit this web site and review the "bill of rights" referenced by the APP. It gives an excellent checklist of the things one should ask before instruments are applied. Most recommendations are just good common sense, but the list would be particularly helpful if someone is nervous about piercing.

For example, it advises a potential piercer to know that piercing guns are never appropriate and can be dangerous when used on any body part, including earlobes.

Make sure every question you have regarding proper after-care is answered thoroughly, both verbally and in writing. Many piercings which have resulted in health injuries could have been prevented if there had been adequate screening about a person's health conditions before the piercing, and proper instructions about sanitary cleaning post-piercing.

Utopia, a piercing studio in Hicksville, N.Y., provides a detailed brochure of APP's aftercare guidelines to its customers.

"You need to be sure that you are being pierced in both a hygienically safe environment and by someone who is a professional piercer," said Allegra Hall, Utopia's manager.

With any piercing, following behavior that promotes healing is important. Here is a list of Do's and Don'ts everyone getting a body piercing should follow:

--Revisit your piercer for a followup evaluation

--Practice good hygiene

--Follow any aftercare guidelines your piercer provides

--Take Iron and Zinc supplements

There are also some "don'ts" when it comes to preventing problems after a piercing. Some behavior that prevents proper healing:

--Excessive touching of the piercing

--Contact with bodily fluids

--Smoking and drinking alcohol after and oral piercing

--Exposure to some cosmetics, lotions, or perfumes

--Immersing in pool water or natural water

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at Foxnews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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