What Causes Tattoo Infections?

Tattoos contain thousands of tiny ink deposits beneath your skin’s surface. Infections can happen when the ink is contaminated or you receive a tattoo in nonsterile conditions. As with any infection, it’s important to seek medical attention.

Why does a tattoo get infected?

Typical Causes of Tattoo Infection – Some pain and discomfort are normal after a tattoo. But when infection sets in, it is usually because bacteria has invaded the tattoo. This can happen at the tattoo parlor or after the tattoo has been put in place. At the tattoo parlor, bacterial infection can occur if the needles are improperly cleaned or sterilized.

Dirty needles are the most common cause of infection. Infection is also possible if the technician is inexperienced and fails to wash their hands, put on sterilized gloves, or forgets to clean the skin carefully before the tattoo is applied.

Aftercare is also important in the days after getting a tattoo. If a technician fails to provide sufficient aftercare instructions, a person may be at increased risk of developing an infection. Sometimes, the customer fails to take proper care of the tattooed area, and an infection develops.

How easily do tattoos get infected?

Other reactions – Infection is relatively uncommon after a tattoo, but various other reactions can occur. These reactions include :

  • New or worsening symptoms of an existing skin condition, such as psoriasis.
  • Skin reactions, such as allergic contact dermatitis and photoallergic dermatitis.
  • An inflamed, red rash and scaly, flaking skin, depending on the reaction.

Learn more about psoriasis and tattoos.

How do you know when a tattoo is infected?

So what are the signs your tattoo is infected? – There are several, each of which may indicate a different kind of infection and thereby a different kind of treatment. What Causes Tattoo Infections Trevor Lush Pus draining Seeing pus draining from the tattoo site is the most specific sign that your tattoo is infected. Tonkovic-Capin says you’ll definitely want to visit the doctor if this occurs in order to determine if the infection is one that can be treated at home or not. “You may try to wash it with liquid antibacterial soap and apply over-the-counter double antibiotic ointment three-to-four times a day.

If you develop a fever, then you should go to the closest emergency room,” advises Tonkovic-Capin. Redness and warmth “If you experience spreading pink discoloration or the feeling of pulsatile heat radiating from around your tattoo, you may have an infection,” says Devgan.

Make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible for a topical or oral antibiotics. You can have swelling and warmth even without infection, says Tonkovic-Capin. But if it persists for more than three days or gets worse, then it is an infection. And you guessed it: See a doctor.

Pseudomonas bacterial or fungal infections These occur when you tattoo your toes, feet, or ankles. “Pseudomonas bacterial infections are more common if you wear old, smelly, sweaty sneakers without socks, and fungal infections are more common if you have athlete’s foot/toenail fungus, or walk around barefoot in the gym or public showers, where this fungus likes to lurk,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, M.

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, F. , a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California, in private practice at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care. So what should you look for? Infections typically appear red and are hot, swollen, and have an odor, says Tsippora Shainhouse.

  1. Fungal infections can also appear red and have a white scale, like athlete’s foot, he says;
  2. He recommends soaking the area with diluted white vinegar and water, along with using a prescription topical antibiotic;

Firm bumps “Firm bumps, known as granulomas, may signify a specific type of allergic reaction to the dye,” says New York City-based board certified dermatologist, Susan Bard, M. An itchy rash may also occur as a reaction to an allergy to the dyes used in your tattoo (this is most common in red dyes), adds Bard.

  • Either way, see your dermatologist or primary care physician right away;
  • Non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection “[This results] from unclean water used in tattoo parlors for washing or diluting ink, or afterwards from exposure in other standing water, like nail salons,” says Shainhouse;

“These present as a single red, swollen lump and are usually associated with smaller pink spots or red streaks up the arm (or leg) following the natural lymphatic flow with or without swollen glands in the armpit (or groin). ” If you think you may be suffering from this, see a primary care physician, dermatologist or infectious disease specialist, who can prescribe oral antibiotics.

coli skin infections Tattoos on the butt, groin, or pubic areas are at an increased risk of infection because they come into contact with fecal matter, which contains E. coli bacteria, says Shainhouse. Shainhouse explains these would smell, include pus, and look red and swollen.

Oral antibiotics are necessary right away, so get to the doctor’s office as soon as possible after signs appear. Viral infections Shainhouse says your risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C are slim, but possible. This can happen if equipment is contaminated and not sterilized after each appointment.

When is a tattoo most likely to get infected?

Week 1 – After a few days, the tattoo should begin to feel less sore and red. A person may notice their tattoo appears duller than it did initially. This appearance is not a cause for concern but a sign that the tattoo is healing. Sometimes, as the skin is healing, people may notice some scabbing.

It is important not to pick the scabs, as this can lead to scarring. At this stage, people may also begin to notice skin feeling itchy. However, it is important to refrain from scratching it. Peeling is also a normal part of the healing process, as the skin rids itself of damaged cells.

This can start a few days after having the tattoo, as the skin exfoliates, and new cells grow. People may notice peeling or flaking skin when washing the tattoo. They should continue to wash and moisturize the tattoo 1–2 times per day. The first few days and weeks are when allergic reactions to tattoo ink and potential infections are most likely to occur.

What do I do if my tattoo is infected?

Will infected tattoo heal itself?

Be prepared to have your tattoo fixed. – “If an infection occurs, it’s not the end of the world,” says Lathe-Vitale. “Once it’s cleared up, the tattoo can always be touched up if necessary. ” The important thing is to wait until the skin has fully recovered because an infection can hinder the healing of the original tattoo.

  1. “This may mean that tattoo pigment is not properly retained in the skin,” explains Dr;
  2. Zeichner;
  3. “It’s okay to get a touch up; however, I recommend waiting at least one to two months after the infection has resolved to make sure that the skin is fully healed;
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” At that point, Lathe-Vitale advises letting your artist visually inspect the tattoo to determine if it’s ready. Marci Robin Marci Robin is a freelance writer and editor specializing in beauty and lifestyle content. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.

How do you treat an infected tattoo at home?

How can you care for yourself at home? –

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Or if your doctor prescribed an antibiotic ointment, apply it as directed.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your infected tattoo, follow your doctor’s instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the tattoo with a mild soap and water 2 times a day. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • Gently pat the tattoo dry after you wash it.
    • You may cover the tattoo with a thin layer of an unscented, water-based cream or lotion and a nonstick bandage.
    • Replace the bandage as needed.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

How long does tattoo flu last?

– If you do succumb to tattoo flu, treat yo’ self. Rest. Watch daytime TV. Rest some more. Eat very healthy meals. Rest even more. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lower your fever. Basically treat this sickness as if it is a regular flu. Your symptoms should pass in a day or two as your body’s immune system calms down and gets to the proper work of healing the actual tattoo on your skin. But, again, call a health pro if you see the following signs of infection:

  • high fever
  • increased body chills
  • diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than a day
  • pus, blood or anything oozing from the new tattoo

Also, call a doctor if you have any of these signs of a different illness:

  • runny nose
  • head congestion
  • chest congestion

OR if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction around the new tattoo:

  • rash
  • redness
  • itchiness
  • bumps

What antibiotics treat infected tattoos?

What Should I Do? – If you aren’t sure whether your new tattoo is infected, ask your artist about signs and symptoms. If you think it might be infected, seek medical attention immediately — do not wait. Skin infections can rapidly spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening. Tattoo infection treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics : Depending on the seriousness of the infection, you may need a prescription for oral antibiotics. In severe cases, you may be hospitalized and receive intravenous antibiotics.
  • Topical ointments : Your doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin. These ointments should not be used to prevent an infection because they can clog pores and cause infection.
  • Cold compresses : Your doctor may recommend using an ice pack to cool the skin and help relieve pain and swelling. It is essential to keep the skin completely dry during this process. Never apply ice directly to the skin — always use a towel between your skin and the ice pack. It is easy to go numb, and ice can cause severe tissue damage. Only use it for 10 minutes before allowing the skin to re-warm.

Can you get sepsis from a tattoo?

Tattoos and body piercings provide an opening in the skin that may allow germs to enter your body and cause infections. These infections could cause sepsis. It is for this reason that anyone who receives a tattoo or piercing must take special care to reduce the risk of contracting an infection.

  1. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to infection;
  2. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment;
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Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia , influenza , or urinary tract infections. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die.

What is a tattoo infection?

  • An infected tattoo often comes with symptoms like redness, swelling, pus, and blistering.
  • If your symptoms are accompanied by a fever or chills, you should seek immediate medical care.
  • Treatment for infected tattoos most often includes a course of antibiotics from your doctor.

Tattoos can be a great way to get creative and express your individuality, but getting inked comes with risks. For example, up to 6% of people with tattoos experience an infection from their tattoo at some point. Infections can happen if your tattooist uses unsterilized equipment, the ink gets contaminated, or if you practice poor tattoo aftercare. Here’s how to identify the signs of an infected tattoo, and steps you can take to treat it.

How do you tell if a tattoo is healing properly?

Is my tattoo infected or scabbing?

Don’t Scratch or Pick Don’t scratch it. We mentioned it once, but it’s important enough that we’ll mention it again. Dismiss all temptation to pick at the itchy scab as it can cause ink loss and infection. After a tattoo, your skin becomes highly sensitive for at least two weeks.

If the scab doesn’t go away after that time, then you may want to speak with a medical professional. If your tattoo continues to feel tender or swollen, or if you’re feeling feverish or experiencing any pus development on the tattoo, you may have an infection.

Whatever the symptom, don’t ignore it. Work with your medical professional for a smooth recovery.

How long should a new tattoo be red?

Your new tattoo will be red, irritated, swollen, warm-to-the-touch & possibly bruised; this is all NORMAL. This will normally last 1 to 3 days. If your tattoo is on an extremity, especially below the knee, you may experience more swelling than normal.

What does tattoo healing look like?

The Final Takeaway  – The tattoo healing process is fairly straightforward. Swelling, pain, and oozing typically resolve by day three and are followed by itching and peeling for another week, in our experts’ experience. Your tattoo may even look darker and duller than expected for the first month. FAQ

  • Should I cover my new tattoo at night? The first night with your fresh ink, you might want to wrap the area in plastic. (But consult with your tattoo artist for their advice on the matter. ) After that, you want to make sure the tattoo is getting as much air as possible, free of coverage.
  • Can I wear clothes over a new tattoo? You can definitely wear clothes over your new tattoo (depending on where you’ve been inked, you might have to). Just make sure to opt for loose, natural fabrics like cotton, and avoid tight clothing that could rub against the tattoo.
  • When can I touch my tattoo? Be sure to ask your tattoo artist for their specific instructions, but in general, your tattoo should stay under the initial bandages for a least a few hours. During the healing process, you should try to only touch your tattoo when cleaning it—and when cleaning it, make sure you’ve washed up first. “The most important step would be to clean your hands before you clean your tattoos,” says tattoo artist Tuki Carter. ”