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Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

The Healthy Geezer

Body piercings and defining shock

Q. My granddaughter came home with a belly-button ring. God help us all. What is going on with these body piercings?

Body piercings have become more prevalent in the last 25 years, but they are certainly not new. People in most cultures have pierced themselves for thousands of years. The mummified remains of a human in Egypt were pierced more than 5,000 years ago. Body piercings are also mentioned in the Bible.

Piercing the body and inserting jewelry in the holes is classified as a form of skin adornment, a fashion statement. Female ear piercing has long been accepted in Western culture. Now, we see piercings of the navel, nose, eyebrows, nipples, lips, tongue and genitals. Oral and genital piercings are supposed to increase sexual pleasure.

A single-use, sterilized piercing gun is usually used to insert an earring into the earlobe. A hollow needle is used to pierce a hole in the skin in other parts of the body. Jewelry is inserted after the perforation is made.

You and your granddaughter should know that there are risks to body piercing. Here they are:

• Any kind of piercing can lead to infection.

• Jewelry can cause allergic reactions, especially if it contains nickel. Avoid jewelry made of nickel or brass. Use jewelry made of titanium, 14-carat gold or surgical-grade steel.

• Tongue piercings can crack your teeth and damage your gums.

• Body piercing can cause keloids, an overgrowth of scar tissue.

• Growths called “pyogenic granulomas” can form. A pyogenic granuloma is usually a small red, oozing, bleeding bump that looks like raw hamburger meat. These must be removed.

• Contaminated piercing equipment can give you AIDS, hepatitis and tetanus.

• Surgery is required if jewelry gets caught on something and tears your skin.

Tell your granddaughter that it is vital to keep her piercing very clean. She should clean her navel area with warm water and soap twice daily. She should also use a liquid medicated cleanser while gently moving the ring around. (Oral piercings require an antibacterial rinse after meals.)

Healing from a piercing can take a few weeks to more than a year. Someone with a piercing should not pick or tug it. Never use hydrogen peroxide because it can break down newly formed tissue.

Studies have shown that people with certain types of heart disease might have a higher risk of developing a heart infection after body piercing. Anyone with allergies, diabetes, skin problems, immune system disorders or infections should ask a doctor about precautions before a piercing.

Q. I’ve heard the term “shock” a million times, but I realized that I don’t really know what it means. What is shock?

Shock is a condition in which blood pressure is too low and not enough oxygenated blood can sustain your body. The medical disorder of shock is not the “shock” people feel from a sudden traumatic event. In the United States, hospital emergency departments report more than one million cases of shock each year.

There are different kinds of shock.

They include anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction, cardiogenic shock from a heart deficiency, hypovolemic shock from bleeding, neurogenic shock from severe emotional disturbance, and septic shock from infections in your blood.

The symptoms of shock include cold and sweaty skin that may be pale or gray, weak but rapid pulse, irritability, thirst, irregular breathing, dizziness, profuse sweating, fatigue, dilated pupils, lackluster eyes, anxiety, confusion, nausea and reduced urine flow.

If untreated, shock is usually fatal. If shock is treated, the outlook depends on the cause, the other disorders the person has, the presence and severity of any organ failure, the amount of time before treatment begins, and the type of treatment given. Regardless of treatment, the likelihood of death caused by shock is great after a massive heart attack, especially in older people.

It is important to get immediate treatment when shock is diagnosed. If you come upon someone in shock, the first step you should take is to call 911 for emergency medical assistance.

Any bleeding should be stopped. Then the victim should be laid down and kept warm. Raise the person’s legs about one to two feet to get the blood returning to the heart. Breathing should be checked. The head should be turned to the side to prevent inhalation of vomit. Nothing should be given by mouth.

When the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrive, they may give oxygen through a face mask or provide a mechanical device to assist breathing. They may also give large volumes of fluids intravenously to raise blood pressure. A blood transfusion may be given.

Drugs that constrict the blood vessels may be administered to boost blood flow to the brain or heart. A bacterial infection could be treated with antibiotics. A drug such as atropine may be used to increase a slow heart rate, and other drugs may be given to improve the heart muscle’s ability to contract.

Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to fred@healthygeezer.com.


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