Things to think about before you get a tattoo or piercing, according to the experts

For the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers recommendations on body modification.
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Tattoos and piercings are more common than ever, especially among young people.

According to Pew Research Center, 38 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo, and 23 percent have a piercing somewhere other than an earlobe, compared to just 6 percent of baby boomers with tattoos, and 1 percent with other piercings.

Although they're becoming more socially acceptable, body modifications shouldn't be taken lightly. There are potential consequences and risks to consider, like the possibility your tongue ring will chip a tooth or that your knuckle tattoos will affect your ability to get a job.

That's why for the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is offering advice about voluntary body modifications for the people most likely to make a spontaneous decision: adolescents and teens.

The recommendations, called "Adolescent and Young Adult Tattooing, Piercing, and Scarification," were published Monday.

Here are some of the highlights:

If you're going to do it, do it safely

For all procedures, the AAP stresses the importance of hygienic practices in piercing and tattoo parlors.

"The facility should practice infection control just like at the doctor's office," the report says.

That means making sure practitioners use new disposable gloves, sterilized needles, fresh unused ink poured into a new disposable container with each client, etc.

And after the procedure, watch for signs of infection, such as redness that spreads, increasing pain, or fever. If any of those things happen, go to the doctor.

Risk of complications

The report also discusses potential medical complications – things like infections, allergic reactions, and bloodborne pathogens. 

The AAP acknowledges that while complications are uncommon, they should still be discussed with a pediatrician beforehand. 

Some people are just better off avoiding both tattoos are piercings altogether, the academy says, like those on medications that inhibit the immune system and can affect the healing process, such as steroids or Accutane.

And everyone should be up to date on immunizations, especially tetanus.

Societal perceptions

Public opinion is changing, and more people are viewing body modification as a form of self-expression. 

The report found that most people who have a tattoo (86 percent) have never regretted getting one, and 30 percent say it makes them feel sexier.

But that means some people do regret their tattoos, and getting rid of them isn't cheap (or painless). Laser removal of tattoos can range from $49 to $300 per square inch of treatment area, according to the report.

Plus, not everyone thinks highly of them – only 7 percent of people surveyed said that more people getting tattoos has been a change for the better.

As you might expect, the AAP says older adults are more likely to view the increasing popularity of tattoos and piercings as a negative trend.

Body modifications may also have repercussions in the workplace. In a 2014 survey, 76 percent of people said they thought tattoos and/or piercings had hurt their chances of getting a job, and 39 percent thought employees with tattoos and/or piercings reflect poorly on their employers.

The AAP says young people may want to consider tattoos or piercings that are not visible in typical work attire.

You can find more recommendations in the entire report here.

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