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Tattoo Infection: What to look out for

A tattoo infection is caused by bad bacteria entering the open wound. This often leads to redness, swelling, inflammation, a rash, or bumpy skin around the tattooed area. It’s normal in the tattoo healing process to have some redness, swelling, and inflammation, but if those worsen or persist for more than a few days, you likely have an infection.

Causes Leading To Tattoo Infections.

  • Contaminated Ink: Contaminated inks include expired ink, cross-contaminated with a used needle, or homemade materials used to tattoo with.

  • DIY Kits: DIY kits are often "stick and poke equipment" which can be difficult to sterilize properly.

  • Improper Aftercare: Improper aftercare is one of the most common reasons for tattoo infections. Most tattoo artists will provide aftercare tips to keep the tattooed area safe from infections. It’s important to listen to your tattoo artist’s advice on proper aftercare.

  • Unhygienic Practices: Reusing materials, not properly sanitizing the station between clients, not wearing gloves, or poorly cleaning and wrapping the tattoo can cause infections.

  • Weak Immune System: Some people may be allergic to materials in the ink. It’s important to be aware of the ingredients in the tattoo ink your artist uses and if you are allergic to any of the components.

Treatment For Tattoo Infections

If you believe your tattoo is showing signs of infections, it’s important to consult your doctor first and foremost. Below are some common treatments for infected tattoos.

Antihistamine Medication: For inflammation, it’s recommended to take an antihistamine which can reduce swelling, redness, and inflammation. Some common antihistamines to take are Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra.

  • Over-the-Counter Medication: Medication such as Tylenol can help reduce an infected tattoo’s swelling, redness, and inflammation.

  • Topical Creams: Topical creams such as Aquaphor healing ointment, QV Cream and petroleum jelly are best for keeping the tattooed area hydrated and reducing infection symptoms such as redness and inflammation.

When To See A Doctor

If you begin to develop a fever or hot & cold chills, abnormal scabbing, or the tattoo begins oozing, then you should consult a doctor. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics but if you continue to have a rash or swelling for more than a week after antibiotics, you might need to consider removal.

Infection - Rash

A tattoo infection can occur immediately after getting one or even days to months after receiving the tattoo. The type of reaction you will begin to see when an infection is starting to occur is if the tattooed area becomes darker instead of lighter overtime or a rash/painful bumps develop.

Photo Credits:

Infection - Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction from the tattoo ink can occur at any stage of your tattoo’s lifecycle. You could show allergic reactions immediately after receiving the tattoo or years later.

The most common tattoo color that people tend to have allergic reactions to is red as the ink typically has a higher amount of metals.

Infection: Blisters

Blistering can occur during the healing process, but if your tattoo continues to blister after a few days, it’s likely caused by an infection. It’s recommended to keep the tattoo clean with warm water and mild unscented soap. keep it covered while it’s still open, avoid the sun for a few days, and keep the tattoo out of water.

Photo Credits:
Color Atlas of Cosmetic Dermatology Marc R. Avram, Sandy Tsao, Zeina Tannous, Mathew M. Avram Copyright 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

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