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Allergies the second-most common side effect of body piercings

Body piercings are not as common as tattoos.

Employers may be hesitant to hire those with noticeable body piercings, particularly if that worker will be expected to interact regularly with members of the public. Side effects related to the health of the individual receiving the piercing may be more significant though.

Body piercings have been shown to have more negative complications than tattoos, even though according to a 2006 University of Chicago study, a larger percentage of Americans have tattoos than body piercings – 24 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Body piercing was found to be much more prevalent among women than men.

In that same study, allergies resulting from body piercings were found to increase with the number of piercings a person had. Metal allergies beyond those related to piercings, especially those involving nickel, are quite common in Americans.

A recently Northwestern University study found that infections are the most common negative side effect of body piercings, followed by allergies, loss of blood and scarring.

Some healthcare professionals have predicted that body piercings could eventually be used for alternative purposes beyond those that simply alter one's appearance. Researchers have recently explored the possibility of those with disabilities using tongue studs to operate wheelchairs and computers.

"Who knows what other anatomic sites for piercings could be used in the future?" study co-author Dr. Julia Minocha said. "If a sensor in the tongue can be used to drive a wheelchair, other devices that we haven't even thought of yet might also work."

Any time individuals introduce a foreign material to their bodies, whether it be prosthetic implants, as this blog reported last week, or body piercings, a doctor should always be consulted before undergoing a procedure. These products are usually metal, which are often irritants. An allergist may be able to conduct patch testing to narrow down the list of metals a person is sensitive to.

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