Like them or not, tattoos and piercings have entered the mainstream as a fashion phenomenon.
Children can spot them on celebrities, sports heroes, their baby sitters and baristas, so it is no surprise that teenagers might start thinking about making their own personal statement through ink or piercing.
Before they make that decision, young people are encouraged to talk with their doctor to review the possible consequences and potential risks associated with permanent tattoos, piercings and other body modifications.
That recommendation comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published its first clinical report on tattoos in September.
Pediatricians recognized the popularity of body art and the need for doctors -- and their patients -- to understand the health and social ramifications.
"Tattooing is much more accepted than it was 15 to 20 years ago," said Dr. Cora C. Breuner, an adolescent medicine specialist and chair of the AAP Committee on Adolescence, and the lead author of the AAP report. "These services have come a long way, safety-wise, but it's best to proceed with caution."
When counseling teens, Dr. Breuner urges her patients to do some research, to think hard about why they want a tattoo, and where on their body they want it.
While societal acceptance of tattoos and piercings has increased, there may still be repercussions. In a 2014 survey, 76 percent of 2,700 people interviewed said they believed that a tattoo or piercing had hurt their chances of getting a job.
Each state's tattooing laws vary, but at least 45 states have laws prohibiting minors from getting tattoos, including Illinois. Thirty-eight states have laws that prohibit both body piercing and tattooing on minors without parental permission. In Illinois, minors can get a piercing with written permission from a parent or legal guardian.
The AAP recommends:
• If you are considering a tattoo, make sure all of your immunizations are up-to-date, and that you are not taking any medication that compromises your immunity.
• Before getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure the salon is sterile, clean and reputable. The facility should be regulated by the state and provide clients with information on how to care for the area that has been tattooed or pierced afterward. The facility should practice infection control just like at the doctor's office.
The AAP also recommends teens talk with their parents before getting 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 Dr. David Levine, a co-author of the AAP report. "They may not realize how expensive it is to remove a tattoo, or how a piercing on your tongue might result in a chipped tooth."
Laser removal of tattoos can range from $49 to $300 per square inch of treatment area.
AAP offers additional resources for parents on its website, HealthyChildren.org.
For information on talking about tattoos with teenagers, go to www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Tattoos.aspx.
For information on body piercings, teens and potential health risks, go to: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/body-piercings.aspx.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics in elk Grove Village. For more information, visit www.healthy children.org.