Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent an Infected Tattoo. Click here for valuable information on tending to your tattoo. Learn: How to tell if a new tattoo is infected, what to do next…

Dealing With an Infected Tattoo

*Images in this post may be graphic*

You just got a new tattoo, and you are totally psyched about it. Maybe it’s your very first ink, maybe it’s your tenth time in the chair. Either way, you get a little nervous when it seems to be taking a long time to heal, and there’s more pain than there should be. It is entirely possible that your tattoo has become an infected tattoo, or that you are having an allergic reaction to the ink. Or worse.

What Can Happen With an Infected Tattoo?

  • Skin infections (Staph/MRSA)
  • Skin/allergic reactions
  • Blood poisoning
  • Bloodborne diseases (Hepatitis C, HIV)

How Can I Tell if It’s an Infected Tattoo?

Signs of Blood Poisoning

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

If the skin around your tattoo has red streaks, get yourself to a doctor immediately. Seriously, stop reading this article and go to the hospital. You may have blood poisoning. Other signs include:

  • Fever with chills
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Red spots on skin
  • Confusion

Signs of an Infected Tattoo

When your tattoo is fresh, it will probably be a little sore, the skin around it might be red, and there might be a clear discharge (with a little blood). This is all normal. However, if you see any of the symptoms below after the first 48 hours, you might want to see a doctor.

  • Redness around the tattoo site
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • Itching/flaking skin
  • Fever
  • Yellow or green discharge
  • Foul smell
  • Excessive pain

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

Signs of Allergic Reaction

Red ink is often the culprit when it comes to allergic reactions, due to the ingredients in the ink. If that’s the case, it may be only the red parts of your tattoo that appear to be affected.

  • Redness and swelling (after the first 48 hours)
  • Dermatitis (hives, scaly skin, blisters, itching)
  • Granulomas (bumps appearing on or around the infected tattoo)

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

How to Identify and Fix an Infected Tattoo

Signs of Blood-borne Illness from an Infected Tattoo

While standards and practices in the tattoo industry have improved greatly in the last decade or so, there is still the possibility of spreading diseases like Hepatitis C if utmost care isn’t taken. The biggest risk is reusing needles, which can easily spread disease from one person to the next. While it’s possible to transmit just about any blood-borne illness in this manner, the main concerns are generally Hep C and HIV. The unfortunate thing is that both of these diseases tend to go undetected for a long time. But, if you’ve gotten a tattoo, especially in sketchy circumstances (some guy’s garage, maybe?), and you start to experience any of the symptoms, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. Getting tested for either disease is easy, and much safer than waiting it out and hoping for the best. Even if you’ve just got the flu, isn’t it better to know for sure?

Hepatitis C

  • Fatigue (unrelated to the amount of rest you’ve had)
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues (stomach pain, vomiting, etc)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Unexplained weight loss


  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Rash (that might not itch)
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues (stomach pain, vomiting, etc)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat

Treatments For an Infected Tattoo

If you are uncertain as to whether or not you have an infection or allergic reaction, you may want to stop by the tattoo parlor first, so they can confirm that you should, in fact, seek treatment. A professional tattoo artist will be able to tell if there’s really a problem, or if it is just a normal part of the healing process. Your doctor can give you steps to take to treat your infection or reaction, and you should always follow your doctor’s orders above anything you see here (or elsewhere on the internet), as this is just a general guide.

Treatments for infections

The most important aspect of treatment is to keep the tattoo dry! Don’t go swimming and keep it covered in the shower. Water is an infected tattoo’s worst enemy. This is why you generally want to keep the tattoo uncovered, so that it can have plenty of air, but always cover it up with a non-stick bandage covered in antibiotic ointment if you will be in a situation where the tattoo could get dirty. Clean the tattoo daily with whatever method your doctor recommends.

  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Over-the-counter pain medication (Aleve, Tylenol)
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Ice (for swelling)

Treatments for allergic reactions

Most allergic reactions to tattoos are mild. Often the reaction isn’t even to the ink, but the process of tattooing itself. For cases like this, oral antihistamines and a topical ointment for itching are all that is needed. If the reaction is severe, however, the tattoo may have to be removed. Removal is generally done by standard tattoo removal procedures, but in rare cases of extreme reaction, the layers of skin have to be cut out. Consult your doctor to find out the best course of action.

Treatments for blood poisoning

Blood poisoning occurs when an infection enters the bloodstream. This can have serious and life threatening consequences. If you suspect you have blood poisoning, see a doctor immediately. They will likely run a gamut of tests on you, including blood and urine tests, X-rays, or CT scans. You will likely be treated in several ways:

  • IV fluids
  • Oxygen
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-clotting treatment
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Prevention: How to Prevent an Infected Tattoo from Occurring

Prevention is the best medicine, and you should always follow the after-care instructions given to you by your tattoo artist. Keep it clean, folks! However, there are steps to take before you even get inked to ensure a happy, healthy, tattoo experience.

  • Research your chosen artist/parlor – Go into the shop, check out their portfolio of work. Do they have any social media pages? Check those out, too, and see what their clients are saying. Any reputable artist will be happy to provide you with access to their previous work.
  • Take a look around – Is the shop clean? Are the artists wearing gloves? Are they using fresh needles and ink cups for every client?
  • Do a test run – If you have other allergies, or sensitive skin, you may want to ask the artist to tattoo a few discreet dots in your chosen area to test for reactions, especially if you want to get red ink.
  • Make sure you’re clean – Yeah, take a shower before you get a tattoo. It’ll provide the artist with a clean canvas, and prevent them from being so grossed out by your b.o. that they can’t concentrate.



NEXT ARTICLE: Tattoo Laser Removal.

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