Tattoos are wildly popular, deeply personal and a little bit risky. Like any open wound, a tattoo can become infected when you neglect to administer proper care. Thankfully, millions of people have been inked, so we have some idea about what to do when a tattoo becomes infected. Read on to learn how to treat an infected tattoo.
- Skill level:
Confirm that your tattoo is actually infected. Tattoos that have just been inked are often red and irritated. They also occasionally bleed, ooze ink or scab over. This is normal. However, if your tattoo oozes a greenish pus, remains red for weeks afterward, or is hot and swelling, your skin may have an infection.
Consult the tattoo artist. The first step in treating an infection is to go directly back to the parlor and show your tattoo to the artist who inked it. Most tattoo artists have been trained to look for infection and have seen hundreds of infections firsthand. In the majority of instances, they will be able to easily confirm or reject the notion that your tattoo is infected.
Make an appointment with your doctor. After revisiting the parlor, head to the clinic. Your primary physician will be able to diagnose a skin infection and give you the proper tools for treatment. He or she may prescribe an antibiotic, as this is the most common way to treat skin infected from tattoos. A doctor may also order blood tests, depending on the circumstances under which you received the tattoo.
Use a topical ointment such as Bacitracin, A&D Ointment or Neosporin on the site if you have confirmed that it is infected. Do not use a topical cream as a preventative. This will only clog the skin and cause an infection. Again, use a topical antibiotic only if you are absolutely sure the tattoo is already infected.
Treat an infected tattoo by keeping it dry at all times. Water is the biggest enemy of your tattoo as it heals. Don't swim with an infection, and do your best to avoid the area altogether when you take a shower.
Tips and warnings
- Tattoos are most notably linked to the liver disease Hepatitis C. Symptoms of a skin infection at the site of your tattoo are not early indicators that you have Hepatitis. Don't be alarmed or confused by rumors or misinformation. A skin infection is just that--an infection of your skin. It is perfectly treatable.
- Prevent future skin infection by wearing sunscreen over your tattoo. Never expose an infected tattoo to sunlight.