Here's How To Tell If Your Tattoo Is Infected

Tattoos have become more and more popular in recent decades, but getting inked does not come without risk. If you go to a shop or tattoo artist that doesn't properly sanitize their tools, you can end up with a nasty skin infection and other health issues (via Healthline). Common signs of an infection include a rash, swelling, and red bumps around the site of the tattoo. Sometimes, this is just a result of irritation from the needle and should go away after a few days. However, if these symptoms persist for a week or more, it may be a sign of an infection.

Call your doctor right away if you experience a rash around the tattoo along with any of the following symptoms: fever, swelling and/or pus coming out of the tattoo site, waves of sweats and chills, and abnormal shivering. If you're in severe pain from your tattoo for more than a few days, this could be a sign of an infection (via Medical News Today). The most common types of infections from tattoos are staphylococcus and streptococcus, though various types of bacteria can cause infection.

How to treat and prevent tattoo infections

Antibacterial ointment applied at home should be enough to treat minor rashes and irritation. However, if you're experiencing symptoms of an infection, see your doctor. How you're treated will depend on the cause of the infection. If it's a bacterial infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics. In rare cases of a very serious infection, surgery may be required.

Generally, if you go to a licensed, reputable tattoo artist, you should have no issues with getting a tattoo safely. Make sure to check that the tattoo shop you go to meets health regulations set up by your city, county, or state (via Mayo Clinic). At the studio, check that your tattoo artist is wearing gloves and removes the needle and tubes from sealed packages before beginning their work on your skin.

After you get a tattoo, use plain soap and water to keep your skin clean. Avoid direct streams of water on a fresh tattoo, and to dry the area, pat it. Don't rub it. Avoid direct exposure to the sun for at least two weeks and don't go swimming in pools, hot tubs, or natural bodies of water while your tattoo is healing. Don't pick at any scabs, and allow up to two weeks for the tattoo to heal.