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Piercings are popular among kids, infection is a serious risk to avoid

Matthew Holmes of Black Hole Piercing and Tattoo in Northeast Portland pierces a girl's ear. (KATU Photo)

Piercings are more popular than ever, especially among kids and teenagers.

A lot of those kids' parents got their first piercing from a childhood friend or sibling, using nothing but an ice cube and a safety pin. A lot of those adults also ended up regretting it, and it’s a mistake they don’t want their kids to repeat. Infections are no fun.

Taking your child to a professional is a much better choice. But even then, some places are safer and cleaner than others. How do you tell the difference? What questions should parents ask?

Body art's becoming so mainstream that the American Academy of Pediatrics just issued its first ever recommendations on tattoos, piercings and body modifications.

The report focuses on advising patients to carefully consider the consequences and potential risks associated with body modifications. Those can include infections to employment prospects down the road. While it's illegal for minors to get tattooed in Oregon, OHSU pediatrician Ben Hoffman says piercings come up a lot.

"It really comes down to parents doing their homework and being comfortable," he says.

Matthew Holmes has performed tens of thousands of body piercings at Black Hole Piercing and Tattoo in Northeast Portland. He says hundreds of hours of training is what sets him -- a licensed body piercing practitioner -- apart from an ear piercer at a mall kiosk or store.

"That training difference. That skill difference is going to be noticeable even when you're 'just' talking about an ear," he says. "And I put ear in quotations because to me there's no difference between a tongue or an eyebrow or an ear, you're still dealing with infection."

That brings us to sanitation.

"The needle hurts less. It can be maintained more cleanly. You actually sterilize a needle. You can't sterilize a piercing gun," Holmes said.

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