Can Your Tattoo Make You Sick?

tattoo make you sick

Your tattoo may be beautiful, but make sure that it doesn’t make you sick! | Source

As if you didn’t already have to worry about whether or not your tattoo was legal–now your ink might make you sick!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that getting a tattoo can leave you susceptible to at least five different kinds of skin infections if proper precautions aren’t taken. The risks and permanence of a tattoo are why in most places shops and artists need to be licensed, but even licensed professionals can still mess up–and it may not be their faults.

How exactly can a tattoo make you sick? Aside from the occasional allergy to tattoo ink, contamination is a big risk. Tattoo artists are supposed to use sterile needle and sterile water, and most of them do. But that won’t help in cases where the actual tattoo ink is contaminated, and often the ink itself is what will make you sick–14 cases of skin infections stemming from contaminated tattoo ink were reported in New York alone this year.

How can you be sure that your tattoo is safe? Start by taking a lot of precautions before you go under the needle. First, make sure you really want a tattoo and that you have a clear vision of what you’re getting in a sketch or a stencil, because it’s permanent (and lasers are painful on your skin and your wallet!). Once you’re positive of that tattoo you want, be sure that your tattoo parlor and artist are licensed. Make certain to read over any waivers you may have to sign before you get tattooed–you might want an adult to look over them with you, too–because you may be signing away the tattoo shop’s liability should anything go wrong.

When you’re gearing up to get inked, ask your tattoo artist to show you all of the needles and ink they’re using–many tattoo artists will be happy to unwrap a new or newly sterilized needle tip and ink right in front of you. And be sure to ask that your tattoo artist use sterile water–and ask your artist how they sterilize the water. It’s super important because distilled water or water that was purified via reverse osmosis actually isn’t sterile, and they can harbor bacteria that can make you sick.

After you get your tattoo, some redness, a little itching, and often some scabbing are normal, and your tattoo artist will tell you what to expect and how to take care of your ink while it heals (often using A+D ointment or specialized tattoo balms). If you experience any other adverse reactions, see a doctor and let your tattoo artist know–because even if they took all the necessary measures to keep you safe, if their tattoo ink is contaminated, you don’t want anyone else to get sick either.

Most of the time, when performed by licensed artists in sterile shops, getting a tattoo is safe. We just want to be sure you’re totally, 100 percent covered and prepared for any potential complications so you can get right down to flaunting your new body art!

Are you thinking of getting a tattoo? Do you have a tattoo already? Do you have any other methods to make sure a tattoo won’t make you sick? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Ruby

    Everybody already knows what you’ve stated in the article and there are very few tattoo shops not following protocol to the “T”.

    I kind of feel that this was a fluffy fear based article with no real substance. It caught my attention but it’s like any other tattooo safety advice, there’s no difference here except that you bring up the NYC issues. Getting to that issues would’ve been a more interesting article.

    Btw, I have a compromised immune system due to MS and the medication I take so I was a little nervous in April when I finally got a tattoo at 46. It healed beautifully and there were no complications. The place I walked into in Wichita KS was very professional and they made me comfortable by following all medical protocols. fwiw