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Diagnose and Treat a Tattoo Infection

Tattoo Infection
A tatto that has become infected.

Getting a new tattoo is a wonderful experience. But that initial feeling of happiness can quickly turn around if your tattoo becomes infected. Tattoos can be a little risky as with any body modifications. Anytime the skin is cut or pricked, there is a chance for an infection. Just like any other open wound, tattoos can get infected without proper tattoo care and preventative measures. Millions and millions of people have been tattooed, and there is a lot of good information and tattoo treatment options available. Today, we are fortunate to have good information available so we know what to do when our tattoo becomes infected.

Some see tattoos as art and others as tacky and nonsense. Both sets of people can however agree that infected tattoos are bad all together. Some infections can be caused by the tattooing process or unsanitary after care of a new tattoo. Tattoo infections are very dangerous if left untreated or are improperly cared for. Not only do tattoo infections cause severe pain, the infection can also infiltrate the blood stream and cause death if untreated. You must never let the infection get out of control. If you have any question whether your tattoo is infected or not, consult your doctor or tattoo artist (preferably the one who has done your tattoo) immediately.

For many different reasons, such as improper tattooing and poor follow-up care, occasionally a tattoo can become infected. Pain, redness, heat, and swelling are all signs that your tattoo may be infected.

Here is a brief checklist of how to identify and treat a tattoo infection:

  1. Tattoo Infection
    An infected tattoo.
    First you need to confirm that the tattoo is indeed infected. Most tattoos that have just been done are red, irritated and possibly bloody. Don’t freak out immediately after your tattoo is finished just because it’s red and bloody. Tattoos can also ooze ink or scab over pretty heavily. These are all normal after the process of tattooing. If your tattoo oozes greenish puss or stays red for a couple of weeks afterward, you most likely have an infection. If the tattoo is hot to the touch and swelling, you may have an infection. If the tattoo is emitting a foul odor, you probably have an infection.
  2. First consult a tattoo artist, the one who has done the ink is the best one to see but if that is not possible (you got a vacation tattoo or out of town tattoo artist) any tattoo artist will do. Tattoo artists have been specially trained to know what to look for in the event of an apparent infection. Most artists have seen many of infections firsthand and have even had a couple themselves. In most cases, the artist will be able to inspect and confirm or deny the idea or fear that your tattoo is indeed infected.
  3. Tattoo is Infected
    Another infected tattoo.
  4. If the tattoo artist that you go to has deemed your tattoo infected then it is time to make an appointment with your physician or medical center. Your primary care physician will be able to diagnose the skin infection and possibly give you a cream or antibiotic for treatment. Your doctor may also prescribe an oral antibiotic, which is the most common way to treat most skin infections from tattoos. Your doctor may also order up blood tests to confirm the type of infection.
  5. Do not use any topical creams as a preventative measure against infection. They are only to be used if the tattoo is indeed infected. The use of a topical ointment such as A&D Ointment, bacitracin or Neosporin on the site is used if the infection is slight or during the initial stages. Antibacterial soap is also used for suspected infection of a tattoo. Treat an infected tattoo like an infected wound of any type, and keep the tattoo dry at all times.
  6. Moist, warm areas are where infections grow and your skin is just the right temperature for bacteria to grow. As the infected tattoo heals, try to keep it as dry as possible. Do not swim with an infected tattoo. Do your best to avoid the area altogether when you take showers (no baths at all). Gently cleaning the area with antibacterial soap twice daily should be fine but always check with the doctor and tattoo artist first. Water is the biggest enemy to a tattoo that is healing.
Infection in the Tattoo
The tattoo has become infected.

With a good tattoo artist and a little tattoo after care, you should not have to worry about your tattoo becoming infected. Now you know how to identify and treat an infected tattoo. When you are ready for your next tattoo, we recommend checking out Chopper Tattoo. They have a huge selection of amazing tattoos that you can find the perfect design online, and print a template to take to your local tattoo artist. They are simply the best around.

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