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Tuesday, October 5, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 31

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Caution can help avoid perils of body piercing

By Allison Dinelli
News Reporter 

The American Academy of Dermatology reports nickel allergies have increased 40 percent during the past five years, and the latest study on skin allergens has nickel ranked as the fastest-growing and most prevalent cause of contact dermatitis. However, no one is born with a nickel allergy.

The allergies, dermatologists say, are caused in large part by ear piercing, body piercing and the use of nickel-coated jewelry to keep piercing holes open.

"Locations such as the upper ears, lips, nose, nasal septum, tongue, navel, breasts and genitalia are frequently chosen for piercing," said Dick Pirozzolo, spokesman for Roman Research. "These areas have displayed an array of problems such as infections, scarring and lifetime allergies to nickel."

According to Pirozzolo, young people -- who favor the hip look of piercings, but don't consider the potential effects -- are most prone to such problems.

A UH senior who preferred to remain anonymous said she was surprised to hear about danger associated with piercings.

"I have two body piercings aside from my ear piercings, and I can't really tell you what kind of jewelry is in the holes," she said. "It took a long time to heal, and it gets infected sometimes, but it looks really cool."

To remedy the problem, doctors advise against piercing anything but the earlobe. "What people have to realize is that, the thicker the area to be pierced, the longer it takes to heal, and the greater the risk for infection and allergic reaction," said Pamela Scheinman, a dermatologist and allergy specialist.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that consumers carefully read the labels on all jewelry items.

"Just because something says 14-karat gold doesn't mean that it is 100 percent gold," Pirozzolo said. "That item only has to be 68 percent gold. The other portion could be any other metal, and could cause an allergic reaction or infection."

Experts agree the best bet is to insist on entirely surgical stainless steel, nickel-free gold, silver or platinum jewelry in any piercing. Ensuring that grade of jewelry will lower the risk of infection and allergic reaction.
 

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