On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced its first-ever recommendations for tattoos and piercings, which were highlighted in the latest edition of its academic journal Pediatrics. The clinical report addresses the subjects of medical complications, risk behaviors, and differentiating between nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) and body modification.
In the report, published today, the AAP urges tattoo artists and piercers that teens and young people need to be screened for mental health concerns, and made aware that unsanitary piercing and tattooing can lead to infections like HIV and hepatitis. Facilities should be clean and offer tips on how to care for a tattoo or piercing.
"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 David Levine, MD, co-author of the report.
As of 2016, three in 10 adults in the United States had one or more tattoos, up from 20 percent in 2012. These can occur from contamination of the inks or diluents used for tattooing. On the other hand, a 2014 survey showed 75 percent of interviewees felt a tattoo or piercing would hurt their chances of getting a job.
While the rate of complications from tattooing is not known, "the rate is likely low" given the number of tattoos and the few reports of complications.
The placement of a body piercing, or tattoo, is important, the report warned.
Now 45 states require parental consent to get a tattoo under the age of 18, and 38 states don't allow body piercing without parental consent (except for the ears).
According to the AAP, most states have regulations making it illegal for a minor to get either a tattoo or piercing without the consent of a parent or guardian.
"Adolescents may overestimate the effectiveness of tattoo removal when having one placed and should be instructed that tattoo placement is permanent, and it is expensive and sometimes hard to remove them", the report reads. That said, the AAP recommends discussing risk of infection before having it done.