Warnings for parents and teens interested in piercings or tattoos

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HOUSTON --Getting a piercing or tattoo is sort of like a coming-of-age for many young adults. But getting them too young, could pose some potential health risks.

In a new clinical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of the possible complications from body piercings including infections, allergic reactions and keloid formations.

Dr. Disha Saharia with the Texas Family Pediatric Group said adolescents should at least be at an age where they can take care of their piercings and tattoos.

"They should be old enough to monitor their piercings or tattoos. If you don't take care of it and keep it clean, that's how it can get infected. You also want to make sure this is something you want long-term because getting a tattoo removed down the road can be pretty expensive," Dr. Saharia said.

State law in Texas says no one under the age of 18 can get a tattoo and a parent has to be present in order for a minor to get a piercing. But a 2010 Pew Survey shows nearly 25% of teens have a piercing somewhere other than their ears, including nose, belly button, nipple and genital piercings.

"Some areas are definitely much more sensitive and much more prone to infection. Genital piercings can get infected more easily if not taken care of properly, and nipple piercings could be problematic for females if they want to breast feed down the road," Dr. Saharia said.

In order to avoid complications, health experts recommend looking for these telltale signs before going under the needle.

"The first thing is they have to make sure that the place they're getting it from is approved and particularly clean and sanitary so they don't have any risk of infection. Make sure that they have their licenses, those should be clearly visible and hung on the walls. And make sure that they are not reusing any needles or tools, that they are opening up that equipment right in front of you. The amount of experience of the person also has a lot to do with whether it's done properly," Dr. Saharia said.

If you do notice signs of an infection or irritation after getting a piercing, Dr. Saharia recommends taking out the piercing and going to see a doctor for treatment immediately. Getting a consultation and antibiotic treatment immediately can help minimize the infection greatly.