By Julie Kippenbrock
She heard a pop.
Sophomore Elise Ruff had just let her friend pierce her upper ear cartilage.
“I trust her. I wanted my cartilage pierced and she had already pierced her own ear,” Ruff said.
Like Ruff, many girls have decided to forgo reputable piercing facilities and either pierce their ears themselves or have a trusted friend perform the task. This can cause an increase in infection because the ear may not be properly disinfected like it might be if done at a place like Claire’s.
According to school nurse Carol Gelatt, periodically students come into the nurse’s office with a piercing infection. “We cleanse (the infection) either with soap and water or Bacitracin and we cover it if it’s needed for infection control,” Gelatt said. Gelatt also asks the students what the piercing facility told them about caring for their piercing and tries to follow those directions.
Cited from Claire’s Web site, cartilage piercing carries a greater risk of infection, permanent scarring and the potential for cartilage deformity if one doesn’t clean the piercing correctly. Claire’s recommends cleaning the piercing three times a day with antiseptic. Unlike earlobe piercing, when the earring can’t be changed for six weeks, ear cartilage piercings must be left in for eight to 12 weeks before removing it and inserting another earring to eliminate risk of infection. Self-piercing only increases the risk of infection.
Sophomore Elise Kelner took the risk. She pierced her own ear, Ruff’s ear and the ear of another friend of theirs. The reason she did her own was because she was bored. She also said it is a pain to pierce your ears at a place like Claire’s because you must have a parent with you if you’re not 18 years or older.
Kelner, who pierced her upper ear cartilage without her parents knowing, said when they found out, they didn’t care. But Ruff, who also didn’t have her parents’ consent, said her parents had the opposite reaction. “(After Kelner had pierced my ear) I told them about it and they were kind of mad, but they couldn’t do anything about it,” Ruff said.
Unlike Claire’s, where technicians use a professional piercing gun, Kelner and Ruff pierced their upper ear cartilage with just an earring stud. “I numbed my ear with two ice cubes, put on a cleaning solution from Claire’s and then I just pierced it with an earring,” Kelner said. She said she did the same when she pierced Ruff’s ear.
“(When Kelner pierced my ear) it hurt but then there was a pop and it ended and then it just felt warm,” Ruff said. “(My piercing) didn’t hurt at first but the day after it did. It took about a week for it to stop hurting and I couldn’t sleep on it for awhile, but it didn’t get infected,” Kelner said.
Kelner, who got her earlobes pierced on her tenth birthday, said it’s hard to compare getting the piercing at Claire’s and piercing her own ear. “(The piercing) is in a different spot but they use a gun so it’s a lot quicker,” Kelner said. According to Claire’s Web site, its piercing system “consists of an instrument that creates minimal discomfort to the customer as the right amount of pressure is carefully applied to effectively pierce the ear.”
“I had my earlobes pierced at Claire’s in the second grade. I felt a sting when I did it at Claire’s, but when you do your cartilage you hear a pop,” Ruff said.
Ruff and Kelner said when they pierced their own ear cartilage, they cleaned their piercings so they didn’t get infected, but many people aren’t as careful.
“If someone is going to get a piercing, it should be at a reputable piercing facility. We would discourage self-piercing,” Gelatt said. “You are puncturing your body’s first defense and that is your skin. It could potentially cause infections. I would not recommend it.”
Ironically, when Gelatt was young, she didn’t get her ears pierced at a reputable piercing facility. “My friend’s father pierced my ears in their kitchen,” she said. “But,” she added, “He was a physician.”
Tips for decreasing the likelihood of infection after getting a piercing
Don’t touch the piercing or twist the jewelry unless you’re cleaning it.
Always wash your hands with soap and water before cleaning the piercing.
Keep clothing away from the piercing. Excessive rubbing or friction can cause irritation and delay healing.
Oral piercings, especially in the tongue, can cause substantial swelling. Depending on the amount of swelling, you may need a prescription anti-inflammatory medication from your doctor. Melting ice chips in your mouth may help any pain and swelling.
MAYOCLINIC.COM / SOURCE