You could be the proud owner of a new tattoo in a matter of hours, but don’t let the ease of getting tattoos stop you from making a thoughtful decision about permanent body art. Before you get a tattoo, make sure you know what’s involved. Also, be certain that tattooing is the right decision for you.
Tattoos breach the skin, which means that skin infections and other complications are possible. Specific risks include:
Medication or other treatment — including possible removal of the tattoo — might be needed if you experience an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink or you develop an infection or other skin problem near a tattoo.
All tattoos will be slightly uncomfortable in the hours and days following the session, but learning to distinguish between regular discomfort and more serious signs of infection can be tricky. Learning what to look for can help keep your recovery process as stress free as possible. Learn to recognize the signs of infection, treat possible infections, and keep yourself infection free after a tattoo.
1. Wait a few days before coming to any conclusions. The day you get a tattoo, the entire area will be red, slightly swollen, and sensitive. New tattoos will be somewhat painful, about as sore as a severe sunburn. In the first 48 hours of getting a tattoo, it can be very difficult to determine whether or not an infection has set in, so don’t jump the gun. Maintain a proper tattoo aftercare procedure and adopt a wait and see policy.
2. Look for severe inflammation. Large or complicated tattoos may take longer to heal than simpler line drawings and smaller tattoos, but if the tattoo remains seriously inflamed for more than three days, it might be a sign of infection. Again, all new tattoos will be inflamed somewhat, but it should go down in a few days.
3. Look for serious swelling. If the area in or immediately around the tattoo swells up unevenly, that can be a serious sign of infection. Any fluid-filled boils or pustules in the area are definitely signs of infection and should be treated immediately. If the tattoo raises up significantly instead of shrinking down, get it checked out.
4. Take your temperature. Any time you’re concerned about the possibility of infection, it’s a good idea to take your temperature with an accurate thermometer and make sure it’s not high. If you’re feeling feverish, it can be a sign of an infection that needs to be treated sooner rather than later.
1. Show the infection to the tattoo artist. If you’re concerned about your tattoo but aren’t sure whether or not it may be infected, the best person to talk to is the artist from whom you received the tattoo. Show them how it’s progressing and ask them to evaluate it.
2. Go to the doctor. If you’ve spoken with your tattoo artist and have tried to care for the tattoo as best you can and still are experiencing symptoms of infection, it’s important to get to the doctor as soon as possible and get on antibiotics. There’s usually not much that can be done topically to the tattoo, but medication can help fight the infection.
3. Use a topical ointment as directed. Your doctor may prescribe topical ointment as well as antibiotics to keep your tattoo healing properly. If so, apply the topical ointment regularly and keep the tattoo as clean as possible. Wash it gently with clean water twice a day, or follow your doctor’s specific instructions.
4. Keep the tattoo dry while the infection heals. Wash your tattoo regularly with a very small amount of non-scented soap and clean water, then blot dry it thoroughly before re-bandaging it or keeping it uncovered. Never cover or soak new tattoos that have become infected.