Tattoos are a common phenomenon today, with as many as 4 out of every 10 Americans boasting of at least one or more tattoos. Whether you are getting yourself inked for the first time or are a pro in getting tattoos, it is imperative to take good care of your tattoo to make sure it heals well and looks vibrant. However, in the absence of proper maintenance or for other reasons, your tattoo may get infected and may lead to mild or severe complications depending on the severity of the infection. If you wish to know more about tattoo infection, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options, we recommend reading the following post for a more comprehensive insight into the topic!
What Is A Tattoo Infection?
Most people experience slight discomfort, swelling, or tenderness because of the needle used to insert the ink. These symptoms are fairly normal and go away within a few days. However, if you keep feeling pain, experience swelling, experience pus formation, and other such symptoms at the site of the tattoo, it could be indicative of an infection. In such a situation, reach out to your doctor and get yourself checked for any infection.
Types of Tattoo Infections
Following are some kinds of tattoo infections that may affect you:
1. Contaminated Ink Infection
The use of toxic or ink diluted with unsterilized water can be the culprit for an infection. If you develop an infection because of contaminated ink, then you can experience swelling, rash accompanied with redness and pus formation at the tattoo site.
2. Bacterial or Viral Infections
In some cases, bacteria or viruses can make their way through the broken skin if the tattoo equipment or ink is contaminated. Most cases of bacterial infections can be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, in rare cases, certain bacteria may not respond to antibiotic treatment. Thus more profound and rare cases of infections such as Sepsis can form, which can lead to life-threatening complications. Some conditions that can crop up due to viral or bacterial infections include herpes simplex, viral warts, impetigo, syphilis, viral hepatitis, etc.
3. Staph Infection
Staph infection tattoo is one of the infections that can develop from getting a tattoo. This is a bacterial infection which can be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, sometimes these bacteria become immune to antibiotics and do not respond well to the treatment. Staph infection can get into the bloodstream and even make its way to the internal organs. Under such circumstances, other complications such as toxic shock syndrome, arthritis, etc., may develop.
4. Infection due to Effects of Tattoo Ink
Different colored tattoo inks can contain different chemicals depending on the pigments used in the composition. For example, blue tattoo ink can contain cobalt aluminate, and red tattoo ink can include mercury sulfide, etc. These chemical substances or metals that provide the color to the tattoo ink can lead to infection. The reactions from the substances used in ink can cause a reaction that can lead to itching raised red bumps.
5. Other Kinds of Reactions
The chances of developing an infection after getting a tattoo are rare. But in some cases, you can also experience certain kinds of reactions. This means that you can develop allergic reactions such as photoallergic dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. You can even develop skin conditions such as psoriasis and if you already persistent skin conditions, then getting a tattoo may aggravate them. Developing a rash accompanied by inflamed and flaky skin can also be experienced.
Causes of An Infected Tattoo
When you get a tattoo, you expose your broken skin to various unwanted substances such as bacteria, viruses, pathogens, etc., which can get inside your body and lead to infections. Here are some reasons that may cause infections in the tattoo:
- If you have used any DIY tattoo kit
- If the ink used is contaminated in any way
- If you have a weakened immune system because of some illness or infection before getting a tattoo
- If you did not follow the post-tattoo care tips properly
- If you went to a tattoo parlor with low hygienic standards
Choosing an experienced tattoo artist and a licensed tattoo can reduce the chances of getting an infection considerably. Still, it does not mean that it covers all probable infection triggers.
Symptoms Of An Infected Tattoo
It is normal to experience a certain amount of redness, pain, and even swelling when you get a tattoo, and as the tattoo begins to heel, you can also experience some itching. If you take proper care and follow basic hygiene, your tattoo gets better within a couple of weeks. However, sometimes people develop infections that require medical assistance. Here are some symptoms that indicate that you may need medical help:
- The swelling aggravates or worsens.
- The pain increases or becomes difficult to bear
- There are bumps, redness, or rash on or around the tattoo
- There is fever
- There are any sweats, chills, or shaking involved
- There is any pus drainage
Treatment for An Infected Tattoo
The course of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Here are some treatment options that your doctor can recommend:
1. OTC or Over the Counter Drugs
For a slightly infected tattoo, your doctor can recommend over counter anti-inflammatory medicines or NSAIDs to help you get relief from the inflammation or pain.
2. Topical Ointments or Creams
To avoid any itching or drying out in any mild tattoo infection, your doctor can suggest a fragrance-free hypoallergenic ointment to manage the symptoms.
3. Antihistamine Medicines
If you develop an allergic reaction such as a faint rash or red bumps, you can be advised to take medicines such as Benadryl, which help ease mild allergic symptoms.
4. Antibiotics Medicines
If the doctor feels a need to administer antibiotics, you will be prescribed the same to manage your infection. The course of antibiotics can depend on the severity of your condition and can last from weeks to even months.
In very rare cases, you might require surgery to repair the skin. Also, if the doctor feels the need, he can obliterate the infected tissues.
How Can You Care For A New Tattoo At Home?
A tattoo is not just an accessory that you can adorn. It is also a medical procedure because it involves using a needle to insert ink underneath the skin. Such types of procedures make you more susceptible to catching infections or scarring. Therefore, it is imperative to take care of a new tattoo at home to prevent and avoid any early-stage tattoo infection. Here are some ways that you can take care of your tattoo post getting it:
- The first and foremost thing to do as soon as you get a tattoo is to keep it covered. Your tattoo artist will make sure to cover it up for you,but, make sure you keep the covering or bandage on for the prescribed time limit. This also prevents your tattoo from rubbing against your clothes and other objects.
- After removing the covering, you should wash the tattoo with any gentle soap and warm water and pat dry with a soft washcloth.
- Use any mild moisturizer or Vaseline and apply a thin layer to the tattoo. You can leave the tattoo uncovered or cover it with a light bandage. Reapply Vaseline and bandage as required.
- If there is any pain, you can ask your doctor to prescribe some OTC painkillers to relieve the pain.
- If you notice any infection, you should visit your doctor. For the healed infected tattoo you will be prescribed a medicine.
- Also, refrain from wearing any tight clothing over the tattoo, pick or scratch your tattoo, indulge in any activity such as swimming, etc., until your tattoo heals completely.
You should be diligent when your tattoo is healing, even if you went to a reputed salon and trained artist. These above mentioned steps will ensure better recovery and lesser complications.
When to See a Doctor?
If you experience any abnormal scabbing, oozing or you start feeling feverish, there is a high possibility that you may have developed some infection in your tattoo. It is essential to treat the infection at the earliest to avoid any possible complications that may arise. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to the ink being used, leading to pus or fluid formation at the site. If you experience any such symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical help and treat your symptoms.
Tattoo infections can be prevented by taking care of your tattoos, however if you develop an infection, there is no need to hit the panic button as they can be easily managed and treated. Most cases of mild infections usually get better within a couple of weeks by following the correct course of treatment. In some cases, however, the infections may aggravate, take longer to heal, and require a longer treatment duration.
Therefore, it is necessary to be proactive in choosing a hygienic tattoo parlor and be careful in following the post-care tips to avoid any infection and other complications.