My Teen’s Piercing Nightmare: Who’s Responsible When Things Go Wrong?

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Body modification is one of the most popular forms of self-expression in the world. While many people go to the extreme, with some even removing fingers and toes, the traditional piercing is still one of the most widely used forms of body modification. Many adults make the decision that they want to have a piercing, but unfortunately, teenagers also make this decision before they’re fully capable of recognizing the potential risks and disadvantages of doing so.

These teenagers sometimes go alone and sneak out and get piercings without permission, too. Any parent that has been the focus of their teen’s seemingly endless campaign to get a piercing may wonder what all the fuss is about if they do. They may say, so what? So my teen came home from school or a friend’s house with a piercing they didn’t give their child permission to get – Big whoop!

The truth, however, is that it can be a health risk, and according to the officials at Southern Nevada Health District, teens put themselves at risk of diseases such as hepatitis or HIV when they get these rogue piercings. In fact, a piercing can prove to be damaging to their health in several different ways, so every parent should understand the dangers their teen faces with piercings and the potential remedies.

In Las Vegas, Spring Valley High School officials recently took a tough stance on piercings and its dangers after a parent contacted them after their child got an infection when another student gave them a piercing. They sent home a letter to all student’s parents warning of the dangers of piercing with unclean needles and threatened disciplinary measures if the actions continued.

The incident came to light after some of the students from Spring Valley High School were using devices such as paper clips and sewing needles to pierce other student’s ears, nipples and navels during school and at their homes. The school district officials said that the practice is very dangerous, and their spokesman, Michael Rodriguez said, “We want parents to be aware and have that conversation with their kids.”1

Have the conversation with your teenager about piercing, and if you do relent to let them get one, make sure it’s done by a professional service. It’s important because an infection most likely will occur if the hole is not properly cleaned when it’s done and during the healing process. The service should give your teen instructions on how to clean the piercing correctly, too. Look for infection signs at the site while it heals, such as redness, heat, and swelling, a discharge of puss, or bleeding.

Teens experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor immediately. Although professional ear piercing services are competent at performing piercings, they are not without risks, and it is something you will need to consider when deciding if your teen should get a piercing or not. Here are a few suggested facts to go over before going to get your teenager’s piercings:

Potential Piercing Risks

Sadly, there are a variety of health issues that could arise if a teenager gets a piercing, and one of the most common is infection of the piercing site. This is especially the case on hard-to-heal piercings, such as those in the cartilage of a person’s body, and they can cause anything from pain in the ears or even the inability to breastfeed if it occurs in a nipple piercing.

Even scarier, however, is the fact that the infection could turn systemic and spread throughout the body. In the end, this can lead to death. Fortunately, this definitely isn’t one of the most common side effects. Minor infections, tearing of the skin, allergies to certain metals used, permanent scarring or damage to nerves or blood vessels, though, are more commonly experienced.

Piercing Injury Liability

Unfortunately, getting a piercing comes with many inherent risks, and when an injury results that’s normal for a type of piercing, even if the teen wasn’t old enough to get it, there may be nothing that a parent can do. If this type of injury does occur, though, it’s best that they speak with an attorney. This is because certain negligent acts, such as incorrectly performing the piercing or failing to use hygienic practices, can result in detrimental injuries that the tattoo artist, parlor or service may be held liable for.

Piercings in the nose, tongue, ear, nostril and belly button are among the most popular with teens. Sadly, complications with any of these piercings can lead to expensive medical bills, and when it can be proven that the piercer was negligent in performing their duty, it’s important to do so. This way, compensation for liability can be received to help cover medical bills.

It should be noted, though, that a typical injury doesn’t magically become a case of negligence just because an underage person was pierced. Popular teen methods of getting tattoos include fake IDs, and it’s not up to a tattoo artist to recognize these bogus identification cards. If a parent recognizes that their underage child has been given a nipple or genital piercing, though, dependent on local laws, the piercer may actually be guilty of child molestation.

Mitigating the Risk

While it may seem like a good idea to make a teen immediately remove their piercing, this could easily lead to an infection. This is why, if a parent chooses to make their teen remove the piercing, they should first speak with a doctor to find out when it’s safe to do so. During the waiting period, and for parents who choose to let their teen keep the piercing, it’s imperative to ensure that they follow all appropriate care instructions.

Again, for most piercings, clean the site in the way that is recommended by the professional that did the piercings. If the piercing site becomes especially swollen, discolored or painful, seek out medical help.

Getting a piercing can be one of the most exciting things that a person ever does, and sadly, teens may recognize this fact without recognizing the risks. This is why it’s so important for a parent to stay abreast of their teen’s activities, and if their teen does get a piercing, they should always respond appropriately. There are ways to mitigate the health risks of such an activity, but when these fail, knowing how to respond legally is essential.


This article is by Holly Chavez. She is the mother of a seventeen-year old that recently got his earlobes pierced at a local piercing shop. She researched personal injury information on attorney’s sites like in case the shop didn’t follow proper cleaning procedures. She wanted to make sure someone could be held accountable if her son got an infection through the fault of another. He kept the site clean while he healed and had no problems.


Holly Chavez is a multidisciplinary writer who enjoys writing entertaining and offbeat articles for families to enjoy. You can catch up to her on twitter @hollyleichavez


  1. Oh yeah teenagers have no idea how dangerous piercings can be and how they will forever be left with the scares of said piercings my niece had a heap of them a few years back and has now taken most of them out but still has the marks of them.

    • I know what you mean Jo Anne. My sister in law has those huge gauges in her ears. Her ears look so pitiful when she takes them out that she tries to hide them with her hair.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Jo-Anne. I understand what you mean. I was looking online the other day and saw where cosmetic surgeons are closing the scars from the huge gauges that were really popular before. There’s scars and infections and we have a ton of infections that weren’t around years ago that have gotten really resistant to antibiotics, too.

  2. This is so crazy! It makes me glad my mom would NOT let me get my belly button pierced when I was in high school. I would have no doubt gone to a sketchy place to get it done.

    • It is crazy Sarah! It can be scary if it’s not done properly. Luckily as a teenager I never had the urge to poke holes in my body like some of my friends. I’m weird I guess lol.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      I know, and you were probably made at her at the time, too! I have a teen that wants a tattoo, He’s 17 and old enough to get it if I say yes. It’s something he doesn’t need to do on a whim, and there is also the danger of diseases if he doesn’t go to a shop that practices sanitary methods.

  3. Sandra Lawson says:

    I got my ears pierced by my friend at school, and I didn’t get any infected ears. That was 10 years ago. We pierced my ears in her kitchen and have never had a problem.

    • I’m glad it worked out for you Sandra! I have bad luck and am a chicken so I wouldn’t have attempted that. So glad my mom had it done for me when I was a baby. She was tired of people saying “He’s so cute!” even though I was dressed in pink lol.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Be careful because there are some powerful “bugs” out there that are resistant to antibiotics now. It’s best to have a professional pierce your ears and not your buddy.

  4. Paul Graham says:

    I am less concerned about who gets to pay the medical bills than about the mind-set that leads to self-mutilation in the first place. As to Who Is Responsible, I think the question should be asked about the mind-set rather than the procedure

    • I can see your thinking Paul. I’ve never had that mind set but my SIL on the other hand did some piercings on the side for people. She did work at a tattoo shop for a short time though too doing it too.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Paul, I can’t agree with you more. My son is 17 and he wants piercings and a tattoo. I wanted piercings because my friends had them and I thought they looked cool. It was usually a friend I wanted to be like or some celebrity or singer that I liked that had them that made me want to get them, too. My son probably is influenced the same way. We had a period where I didn’t have health insurance and he was really putting the pressure on to get his ears pierced that led to the formulation of the legal and medical issues we may encounter if I did cave and let him have it.

  5. I have never had the desire to modify anything on my body so have a hard time wrapping my head around the social significance of doing so. Of course once it is done I absolutely agree with you that appropriate maintenance be taken. I have not had the issue of a rouge piercing arriving on my doorstep but am glad to see your article. Very informative as I do have nieces.

    • I’m not sure either Tim. Teens just see their friends doing it and want to be “cool” like them. You know kids they have to copy one another.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Tim, glad to get your feedback for the article. My teen had the urge for some ear piercings. I’m just too afraid of all the super bugs out there to just cave and let him do it. He will be old enough soon to make those decisions on his own. He changes his mind a lot, so we’ll see.

  6. I had a friend in high school who did all of her own piercings. It’s amazing she never got badly infected.

    • My SIL did the same thing. I think she got lucky too. I’d never have the guts to do something like that.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      He Jeri. There are so many superbugs going around right now that as far as I can keep my family away from the hospital, the better off we may be. Why ask for trouble by piercing your ears at home or taking a risk you don’t need to. Thanks for reading and the comment.

  7. Thanks for sharing this article. I think parents and teens both need to be aware of the complications which could remain lifelong. Its similar to tattoos – if you go to a recognized safe place to have it done, it cuts down (but doesn’t always eliminate) health risks. This is a great post – hope many read it.

    • Thanks Lenie! Yes, not all “shops” practice the best sanitary procedures. It does have to be somewhat better than doing it with a paper clip though I would think.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Lenie,

      Thank for your feedback. That was entirely the message I wanted to provide the readers.

  8. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    Oh my…this isn’t a new problem however! My parents said no to my getting my ears pierced when I was a freshman in high school. Back then, ears were the only thing we pierced and even that was limited to 1 hole per ear! So my friend pierced my ears with a rug needle, a cork and an ice cube in the woods behind my house! I was lucky…I used peroxide and alcohol every day and wore a pair of 18K studs for a month. It was six months before my folks noticed. Kids don’t think about consequences… never have! 🙂

    • I’m surprised it took your parents 6 months to notice Jacquie. Your hair must of been covering them. Yep, kids don’t look for consequences and rarely listen. An awful combo!

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Jacqueline. My son started asking for ear piercings about the same time we didn’t have health insurance. I was so afraid he was going to do that and take care of his ears the same way he takes care of his room. Luckily, we have health insurance again, and he didn’t sneak off and get his ears pierced by a buddy. Thanks for the feedback!

  9. When I had my ears pierced I went to the doctors. There are health risks, but it also has a bad connotation, when piecing the tongue, lips, nose and belly button. I don’t society has accepted it as a fashion statement but more of a status of the person. I am very fortunate my children never wanted piercing down.

    • I know what you mean Arleen. People still look down on people with piercings elsewhere besides the ears.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Arleen. I got my ears pierced by the doctor, too. They had a gun and much thicker earring post that kept the holes they made from closing up. I had some friends that did them at home and they were always getting infections and the hole kept closing up. Thank you for reading.

  10. I know it’s not quite the same thing, but my daughter is currently dealing with infections in both her ear piercings. I can’t imagine dealing with a worse infection somewhere, shall we say…more sensitive. You never think of what can go wrong, especially when you’re young.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your daughters ear infections Meredith. Those are never fun. I get them just from wearing fake jewelry sometimes.

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Meredith. Let me know how that comes out about her infection. I don’t understand the other “sensitive” places for piercings, either. I hope the ones that do that for a living keep things sterilized and get paid extra for doing that service as “hazard” pay.

  11. I got a belly button piercing at 16 at a tattoo shop which I took out immediately due to infection. I’m 35 and it still gets infected. Think twice teens!

  12. Kids want what is the latest trend but as parents sometimes we need to say “No Not Right Now.” Piercings can be harmless or they can cause a lot of damage. I think a parent really needs to be careful and research the business where they are considering going. 🙂

    • Yes, research is def the thing to do when comes to getting a piercing Susan. You always hear of places using dirty needles and such. SO scary!

    • Holly Chavez says:

      Hi Susan, that is perfect advice. Everything doesn’t have to be done spur of the moment, and teens can discuss it with their parents who can take them to a place that excels at piercings and is very sanitary.

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