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What are the signs of an infected tattoo?

Updated July 18, 2017

Tattoos are well-designed, self-inflicted wounds. So treat each newly tattooed area with care. Like any wound, the area is open to infection. Listen to what the tattoo artist has to say and keep the new tattoo very dry and clean. All infections are preventable and should be treated immediately.

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Signs of Infection

During the healing process, it is very easy for a tattoo to become infected. However, for the first few days, it is normal for a new tattoo to hurt, be inflamed, red, bleed, itch and leak ink. If these symptoms last more than a few days, the tattoo is probably infected. If at any time the tattoo oozes white, yellow or green pus, the tattooed area or the area around the tattoo is definitely infected. Other symptoms of infection include fever, prolonged swelling and redness, red streaks and heat or warmth to the touch of the tattooed area.


If for any reason a new tattoo looks or feels infected, contact the tattoo artist who did the tattoo. He will definitely be able to tell if the newly tattooed area is or is not infected. If the artist can not be contacted, keep the tattooed area dry and use antibacterial soap or A&D ointment until you can go to a doctor. A doctor can prescribe any medications to treat the infected area and can give the best advice. Listen to his directions.


Most tattoo artists will instruct each person who receives a new tattoo on the best way to avoid tattoo infection. Follow his advice. Also, keep the tattoo clean. When cleaning the new tattoo, only wash it with fingers, not washcloths, paper towels or cotton balls. Keep the tattoo as dry as possible, including in the shower and bath. Also, use as little lotion as possible. A little bit goes a long way. The skin needs to breathe, so use lotion minimally. Also don't scratch or pick at the tattooed area as it begins to heal. Let the area scab over. That's what it is supposed to do.

Extended Care

Tattoos are also sensitive to sunlight. So when out in the sun, make sure to use suntan lotion on all tattoos, especially new ones. Sun rays make the ink in tattoos fade. To keep the bold ink look, also use lotion on the tattoo regularly so it does not dry out after it has healed.


Tattoo infections are serious business. Infections can lead to more serious problems like hepatitis or infections of the bone. In the very worst case, it can lead to death, but there are no reports of death from a tattoo infection at this time. So if the tattoo looks infected at any time, go and have it looked at by a professional before it turns into something worse that could have been prevented.

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