Thinking about Piercing? Read on!
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1 February 2007
So you're thinking about getting a teensy weensy hole in your ear, eyebrow, lip or some other bit of you, eh? Good for you! Lots of people think it's great. It looks good, it feels good, you can use it to shock your granny and it gives you the chance to spend a load of money - what more could you ask for? The answer is, quite a lot more, actually. So what should you do before you fork out your hard-earned moolah at a piercing studio? 1. THINK ABOUT IT LONG AND HARD. Obviously, piercing is less of a permanent commitment than a tattoo, but it does need a bit of bravery to go through the process and it will need a good bit of care and attention for up to a year after the piercing takes place. 2. TALK TO PEOPLE. Most people who have piercings just love to show them off and brag about them so usually pierced people will be happy to share their experiences with you. But also think about asking friends and relatives you trust to give you an honest opinion. You might even want to talk to a few potential employers and ask whether they would like someone with particular piercings working for them. I know it seems like discrimination - and it is - but you need to be realistic. If something is going to affect your career prospects, do you still want to do it? Check out all the angles before you go ahead with a piercing. 3. BE SURE YOU ARE COMITTED. Make sure you are sufficiently determined to get your piercing to be willing to go through the trouble of looking after yourself properly. All those people out there who are afraid of commitment better not bother with a piercing. They take weeks or even months to heal properly and you'll have to tend them one way or another. 4. CHOOSE YOUR PIERCER CAREFULLY. Probably the best thing to do is to get a recommendation from someone you know. There are all sorts of sharks and various other idiots out there who set themselves up as professionals but whose standards of hygiene are pants! If anyone ever comes at you with one of those peircing guns, you ought to run a mile. Those things can't be sterilised properly and dramatically increase the risk of infection. You don't want your bits and pieces turning green and falling off do you? Ok, so the “bits falling off” part was an exaggeration, but the point is not - make sure you find a clean, well-lit and sanitary piercing studio. Make sure you watch the piercer wash his or her hands and put on a NEW pair of sanitary gloves. Once the gloves are on, they shouldn't touch anything that isn't sterile, scratch their bum or pick their nose. If they do, get them to do the whole sanitation process again (and tell them you think they are completely gross!) Make sure they also use a brand new, single use needle and canula. Make sure you see them open the sealed packet in front of you. Again, if they don't, tell them you want a fresh needle. If they're good, they'll do it. If they're bad, get the hell out of there! 5. CHOOSE YOUR TIME CAREFULLY. Some times are better than others. Think about what events and commitments are coming up. You don't want a red and slightly swollen nose on your sister's wedding photos, do you? Or maybe you do? How sick is that? If you are going to be on safari in Africa from next Monday, it's probably a bit dumb getting your tongue pierced on Saturday. You might not be able to keep your piercing clean in the bush and all the excitement might mean you don't give your piercing enough time and attention. Not to mention that, if the worst should happen and you get an infection, there aren't too many medical facilities in the middle of the Kalahari. As a rough guide, full healing of various piercings takes about the following times: Pierced Body Part Time it Takes To Heal Ear lobe 6 to 8 weeks Ear cartilage 4 months to 1 year Eyebrow 6 to 8 weeks Nostril 2 to 4 months Nasal septum 6 to 8 months Nasal bridge 8 to 10 weeks Tongue 4 weeks Lip 2 to 3 months Nipple 3 to 6 months Navel 4 months to 1 year Female genitalia 4 to 10 weeks Male genitalia 4 weeks to 6 months You'll have some discomfort (OK, it can be more in some cases - but I don't want to put you off!) for less time than this. These times are a rough guide to COMPLETE healing times. Longer than you thought? Yup, they usually are! I have to say that my ear cartilage piercings took a LOT less time than 4 months - but maybe I'm just superwoman in disguise. The above times are, apparently, the average for most lesser mortals! I should also tell you that piercings done under local anaesthetic don’t tend to heal as well as ones done without anaesthetic. Something to do with endorphins rushing to the site of the injury and starting the healing process more quickly and efficiently. A bit of bravery at the time of the piercing is definitely worth it in the days and weeks after the event. So ....... moving on. Let's say you've decided to go ahead and get pierced .... somewhere or another on your body. What should you know about the risks involved? THE NASTY BIT - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED! Risks include: infections (caused by bacteria, tetanus, hepatitis, HIV, or even yeast), allergic reactions (usually due to the wrong type of jewellery), bleeding, keloids (thick scarring at the piercing site) and nerve damage (often due to the wrong size of jewellery being used). Then there are the obvious things like swelling of the tongue after tongue piercings, potential damage to teeth and gums from lip and other oral piercings, potential damage to the milk-producing glands in female nipple piercings and the obvious risks to sensation of the penis in male genital piercings. A good piercer will be able to talk you through the risks involved in any particular procedure. If they say there are no risks or they can’t explain the risks properly, you’d better think about doing that disappearing trick again because they are obviously not very bright! If you notice any signs of infection (redness or swelling), allergic reaction (redness, swelling or itching), if you bleed too much or for too long or if you notice any loss of sensation at the piercing site, PLEASE DON’T MESS ABOUT – GET TO A DOCTOR OR HOSPITAL PRONTO. Better to be given antibiotics or something now than an amputation in six months! And remember, the risk of infection remains even after you might think everything is fine. Better be safe than sorry in this situation. TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR PIERCINGS AND DON’T TAKE ANY STUPID RISKS. Be extra careful about: 1.Coming into contact with body fluids or other potential hazards from other people and environments. 2.Cover your new piercings with waterproof palster or surgical tape when you go swimming – remember a lot of dirty swines still think swimming pools are public toilets! 3.If you have a genital piercing, stock up on condoms and be really fussy about using them for up to a year afterwards – just in case. 4.If you have oral or facial piercings, watch who you’re snogging for up to a year afterwards. Even normally harmless bacteria and viruses can get into piercings that are not yet completely healed. OK, so statistically speaking you’re probably not going to catch anything too deadly. BUT, you still need to minimise the risk as much as you can just to save yourself all those trips to the doctor. Still thinking of getting that little hole put on your body? If the answer is “Yes”, I wish you years of joy from your new piercing. If I’ve put you off – GOOD! If you can be put off by reading a guide like this, you’re probably not ready to be pierced. If you’re still thinking about it in a year’s time, come back and read this again. Good Luck – and HAPPY PIERCING!
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