Does This Look Infected?


What You Need to Know About Tattoo Infections


Getting a tattoo, especially your first one, can be an exciting, nerve-wracking and even exhilarating experience. Sure, there is bound to be some apprehension when it comes to the pain aspect of getting inked, but the finished product is always worth it—if you go to a reputable tattoo shop, that is. While they are works of art and help to convey one’s unique story to the world, tattoos should always be treated with special care during the healing process to avoid a tattoo infection.


What is a Tattoo Infection?

To understand tattoo infections, it’s important to know that a tattoo is, at its core, an open wound. During the inking process, the tattoo machine pierces the skin anywhere between 50 and 300 times per minute. Since the skin is protects our bodies from bacteria and other impurities, getting tattooed is like etching tiny holes in our bodies’ outer armor. This action of course weakens the skin’s defenses and can allow infectious agents (i.e., “bad-guy” germs) to infiltrate the tattooed area, which can lead to a tattoo infection.


Tattoo Infection Causes

Tattoo infections can be caused by a handful of things. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for certain tattoo artists to be the culprits. Whether they fail to follow proper sterilization protocol or severely lack personal hygiene, tattoo infections can stem from artists who don’t take the necessary precautions. This, however, can be avoided by going to a licensed, reputable tattoo shop. Perhaps the most common cause of a tattoo infection comes from failure to follow appropriate aftercare, which calls for the person to keep his or her tattoo clean and protected with wound ointment. You can read more about proper tattoo aftercare here.


What Are the Symptoms?

Tattoo infections, like normal skin infections, are not to be taken lightly. While it can oftentimes be treated with normal aftercare, there shouldn’t be any hesitation to go to the doctor if you suspect a tattoo infection. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:


  • Fever ­– A fever is your body’s way of telling you it is fighting something. If your temperature rises above 99 degrees Fahrenheit, it is wise to seek medical attention.
  • Bad smell – “Bad-guy” bacteria emit a foul odor, so if your tattooed area smells bad, it’s quite possible that you have a tattoo infection.
  • Abnormal discharge – It’s normal for your tattoo to “weep” for a day or two after getting it, but if you start to notice yellow or green pus coming from your ink, it’s probably infected.
  • Prolonged pain – Expect your skin to feel tender or even a bit uncomfortable for a few days after getting tatted up. However, if you notice that the pain doesn’t subside after a couple of days or increases, you very well may have a tattoo infection. 
  • Excessive swelling – It’s absolutely normal for your skin to be slightly swollen after getting a tattoo. However, if the tattoo site appears excessively puffy or begins to spread, you may have a tattoo infection.
  • Skin inflammation – If you notice that the area in and around your tattoo site is pink or red in color, your skin is likely inflamed. If this area is a lot warmer than the rest of your body and has not gotten better within the first few days of getting a tattoo, you’d be wise to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
  • Red streaking ­– If you see red streaks stemming from your tattooed area, your body may be dealing with blood poisoning. It is highly important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect blood poisoning, as it can be deadly.


Tattoo Infection Takeaways

Generally speaking, tattoo infections can be totally avoided by strictly following your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of questionable and unclean tattoo shops. If at any point during your healing process you suspect that you have a tattoo infection, seek medical attention. For pointers about how to avoid infection, feel free to contact us online or stop by for a visit!