Tattoos and piercings: Health risks and safety precautions

Tattoos and piercings also known as body modifications are a form of permanent body modification or adornment that is created when an electrically driven needle inserts ink into the dermis for tattoos while  Piercing is another popular form of body art. It is a type of body modification where a needle punctures a hole in the body. Jewelry is then inserted in this hole.

Ears, noses, eyebrows, tongues, lips, navels, nipples, genitals, and other body parts can be pierced.  Tattoos are done for social, cultural, and religious purposes. It has been in existence since the 18th century and was associated with sailors, lower class individuals, and criminals.

However, since the late 20th century, tattooing  and piercings has undergone a redefinition and shifted to an acceptable form of expression all over the world, including Nigeria, cutting across almost all age groups.

Tattooing is commonly practiced by people of nearly every race and country in the world. In the last three decades, tattoos have increased in popularity and are now seen on individuals from a broad range of social classes. Nigeria is not left out in this as most teenagers, adolescents and young adults now obtain tattoos and piercings in keeping up with the western culture though tattoos and body marks have been used to identify people’s of different tribes and ethnic backgrounds.

According to the vanguard news report it is estimated that one-tenth of adults in the large cities in Nigeria now have at least one tattoo. In Nigerian universities undergraduate students flaunt tattoos mostly in imitation of popular musicians like Davido, Naira Marley, Wizkid amongst others. Some even go as far as placing the face of their favorite music star or celebrity on their breasts for females just like Tacha one of the Big brother season 4 housemates did. Some place tattoos on their necks, arms and wrists for everyone to see while others place theirs in other parts of their bodies away from prying eyes or simply cover it up with clothes.

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In the past In Nigeria, tattoos are placed on the skin using crude methods. The tattooist procedure is carried out using razor blades or sharp pen knives. Soot especially from lantern or the African chimney is usually embedded into the wound and the patient not allowed washing the face or the body area tattooed until the dry scab heals leaving the permanent pattern. In these modern times tattoos are obtained using electrically driven needles and ink or pigment to make various patterns and shapes but these needles break the skin slightly unlike the local methods.

Tattoos and piercings have various health complications and may come with long-term medical risks. While it is true that tattoos are becoming more popular than ever, it is also fact that more and more people than ever are developing infections from contaminated tattoo inks, as well as adverse reactions to the inks. Reports of bad reactions to tattoo inks right after tattooing, even years later, are quite common.

Health risks and medical complications of Body modifications

Tattoos and piercings are fashionable in this age and time but as a student who intends to get a tattoo or piercing, you have to be aware of its associated health risks and know ways to prevent these complications. Valencia Higuera in a Healthline article outlined the health risks of tattoos which includes:

  • Allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, which may develop years later; signs of an allergic reaction include a rash at the tattoo site
  • skin infection, such as a staph infection or tuberculosis
  • development of nodules of inflamed tissue called granulomas around the tattoo site
  • formation of keloids, which are overgrowths of scar tissue
  • blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and tetanus; these can be contracted by using contaminated tattoo needles that haven’t been sanitized
  • interference with future magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests
  • burning or swelling at the tattoo site.
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Health risks of piercings

Modifying your body with piercings also has its fair share of risks, such as the risk of a bacterial infection. Some persons develop an abscess after getting a piercing. This pus-filled mass can develop around the piercing. It is a serious side effect If left untreated, there’s also the risk for sepsis or blood poisoning. Sepsis is a life-threatening response to an infection that can result in organ failure and death. Other health risks associated with piercings includes

  • swelling around the piercing site
  • formation of a keloid around the piercing
  • bleeding caused by a damaged blood vessel.

There are also complications that arises from body specific piercings such as the tongue. Redness and swelling can occur making it difficult to swallow or it could get worse if the swelling blocks the air passage and restricts breathing.

Measures to avoid tattoo complications

  • Get a tattoo from a licensed, reputable facility.
  • Needles and razors should not be reused. Make sure you observe your artist remove needles from a new, sealed package.
  • Check to make sure your artist uses a fresh pair of gloves and washes their hands before starting the procedure.
  • Work surfaces, chairs, and non-disposable equipment must be properly cleaned and sterilized between customers. Go to another facility if there’s evidence of poor sanitation.
  • The area of skin being tattooed should be swabbed with a disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol, before tattooing.
  • Fresh tattoos should be covered with sterile gauze or a bandage.
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Measures to avoid piercing complications

Valencia Higuera enumerated the safety measures that you should ensure the artist abide by before getting pierced.

  • A piercing gun should only be used on earlobes. A hollow needle should be used to pierce other body parts to avoid crushing delicate tissues.
  • Piercers should wash their hands and put on a fresh pair of disposable surgical gloves.
  • Body piercings should be performed with a single-use needle, which is disposed of after each use.
  • Piercing equipment and surfaces should be sanitized and wiped down after each customer.
  • Jewelry should be sterilized before being inserted through the body.

Tattoos and piercings are fashion trends among youths and students that are not going away anytime soon, so before you ink, think.

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