Your baby wants body art

August. 27,2001 — Piercing used to be a ritual for girls — pajama parties, ice cubes, mom’s sewing needles. But this is a new world. Popular role models like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys are inspiring younger and younger children to ask their parents for belly button rings, tongue studs and tattoos.

Some people call it self-expression. Some say disfigurement. But the problem isn’t just style or rebellion.

Parents need to learn more about the real health dangers—especially tattoos.

A recent study by Robert Haley, director of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, suggests that people with tattoos are more likely to contract hepatitis C9 times . His report was published in the March issue of Medicine magazine.

Hepatitis C is spread through infected blood and infected needles, which is how the virus is linked to tattoos. Tattoos involve lots of needles making lots of sticks on the skin. If the needles and “tattoo machines” are not properly sterilized, each stick is at risk of contamination – not only hepatitis, but the virus that causes AIDS – HIV.

“The scary thing about hepatitis C is that the virus can survive outside the body — in the environment — for up to three months,” Haley tells WebMD. A drop of blood on a phone, counter, chair, device can contaminate someone.

Equally scary: About 75 percent of people with acute hepatitis C develop a chronic infection that attacks the liver, leading to early-stage cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

But there are no symptoms early on. While there are treatments available, they are expensive and, to be effective, must start early in the disease process.

“People can have a virus for 10 years without knowing it,” Haley said. “In another 10 to 20 years, they’re likely to die.”

Hepatitis C has become an epidemic

take it seriously, Haley said.

“There’s a hepatitis C pandemic in this country, and most people don’t realize it,” he said. “Parents need to educate their teens that [tattoos] are more than just a pretty picture on their skin. They risk lifelong infections.”

At school, children may hear more about the tattoo-hepatitis C link, thanks to a national campaign launched by the International Hepatitis Foundation, says president and chief executive Thelma King Field.

“In most schools, children are not taught how important the liver is and how serious they can do to their health without realizing it,” she tells WebMD.

“They see rock stars with tattoos, but they walk into these tattoo parlors and don’t see the virus,” Field said. “They don’t know they’re going to get sick.”

Body piercings are another story, Haley said.

‘No’t seems to have the same risk of hepatitis C as a tattoo,” he said. “Even a tongue piercing is safe. Saliva has a lot of infection-fighting immune processes, so the average person doesn’t get a lot of bacteria [or hepatitis C]. “

Shops under tattoo guns

The crux of the problem, Haley says, is the sanitizing practices of tattoo parlors.

In general, tattoo artists and tattoo parlors are not required – state or local government – to follow the same aseptic practices as other procedures that use needles, such as hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Some states and cities have some regulations, but Texas is the only state that passed a law (in the mid-1990s) requiring all tattoo parlors to be licensed, with equipment regularly inspected and sanitized procedures.

Even so, Haley says, checks aren’t as frequent as they should be.

Plus, kids are buying tattoo kits Bags – advertised on the back covers of popular tattoo magazines – and tried them on their friends. Other kids getting tattoos at flea markets or nightclubs looking for easy money. Think any of them are worried about hepatitis C?

“It’s a difficult situation,” said Dennis Dwyer, executive director of the Alliance of Professional Tattoo Artists (APT), an education group Dwyer said. Tattoo practitioners understand infection control procedures.

APT is the tattoo industry’s attempt at self-monitoring.

“Many people are doing their best to provide safety tattoo. But there’s a lot of nonconformists in this industry,” he said, “even if the health department or the city passes laws, they can’t catch the ‘Johnny Tabletop’ at the flea market. “

Help kids make good decisions

But if kids want a tattoo, they’re likely to get one.

“Regardless of risk, regulation, and cost, they will get them,” said Myrna Alexander, EdD, RN, nurse-turned tattoo specialist. “Tell your child ‘no’ and you’ll know.” What will happen. ”

Alexander, a nursing professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, has been following the tattoo industry for about 10 years. She has also written a A study of the entire teen/tattoo scene.

Turning kids into smarter consumers is the answer, says Alexander.

She’s seen Some clean, top-notch tattoo parlors.

“There are some really famous tattoo artists there,” Alexander tells WebMD. “They work hard and their studios are as clean as medical clinics.” They do it well because they believe what they do is art. The problem is, there are a lot of people who don’t. “

Visit the tattoo parlour

In Atlanta, the Sacred Heart tattoo parlour was voted “Best in the City” in a local survey. It’s probably not you As expected. Inside, it looks a lot like any stylish graphic arts studio—a top-floor loft with high ceilings, large windows, and whitewashed walls.

“Ask me any questions,” says tattoo artist Chris Clark.

In order to do business in Atlanta, Clark must be certified by the city, which includes a comprehensive Physical examination, background check and blood test. He also answered questions about needle disposal and other biohazard issues from a committee hand-picked by the mayor’s office.

Georgian law does not restrict tattoos Too many rules, but anyone 16 and over can get a tattoo. Sacred Heart Tattoo takes the law one step further: “We don’t think it’s good business ethics,” Clark said. “We say 18 and that’s it; please don’t bring kids into the store . “

How do you know if a tattoo parlor is safe?

  • Ask questions about sterilization procedures, Clark said. “If people really want to see Autoclaves, sterile rooms, biohazard rooms, we’ll show them. We explain how an autoclave works.
  • Ensure the store is APT certified. APT offers eight-hour courses on blood-borne pathogens, safety, and prevention procedures. Since many cities and states do not require city certification, APT certification is a key to ensuring sterility, Clark said. The only way to operate a procedure.

To combat hepatitis C and other blood-borne pathogens, APT member tattoo artists are taught to Equipment is autoclaved, uses a separate ink and lubricant section, and disposes of used needles according to federal guidelines set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. They also use an EPA-registered “viricide” to clean customers Workstations in between. For more information on these procedures, review the “Basic Guide to Tattoos” on the APT website

  • Ask to view the monthly report on autoclave testing – called “spore test” – indicates ste