What are the health risks in getting a tattoo?

What are the health risks in getting a tattoo?

Before going under the tattoo needle, read this important safety information.

Photo Credit: Ryan Klos
By Deborah Ng

Tattoos are trendy at the present time. Many feel that adorning their bodies with permanent ink helps them to profess their individuality. Others like the idea of sporting art work on arms, backs and other areas of the body. If you’re interested in getting a tattoo, you’d be well advised to study up on risks associated with this particular form of body art so you can take the necessary precautions.

When choosing a tattoo artist, first take a look around his studio. Is it clean? Is it brightly lit? Is there an autoclave for sterilizing stainless steel or other easy-to-clean needles? Does the artist wear rubber gloves? Remember, broken skin and bleeding are involved so you want to make sure your tattoo session is going to be conducted in a safe and healthy manner. Never, ever settle for an inexpensive tattoo in less than sanitary conditions. If it makes you feel better, talk first to others tattooed by the same artist to make sure he operates in a healthy manner.

In order to prevent infection, never allow anyone but a professional tattoo artist to tattoo your body. All tattoos should be drawn with the correct equipment and not pens, sewing needles or home tattoo kits. Remember, friends don’t let friends tattoo each other.

Never get a tattoo after drinking alcohol. Not only is it a bad idea to make such a permanent decision while impaired, but alcohol will act as a blood thinner and can cause extreme bleeding.

Because a needle is being inserted underneath the skin, anyone getting tattooed is at risk for diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. While there are no vaccinations to render us immune from HIV or Hepatitis C, you would be well advised to prevent contracting Hepatitis B by vaccinating yourself against this disease. Your local Department of Health will have more information regarding such vaccinations.

In addition to viral infections, one has to worry about bacterial infections and allergies to dyes and needles. In some cases, one can contract a mild, treatable infection; in others, the outcome is more severe. Toxic shock syndrome, tetanus and tuberculosis are other symptoms of a tattoo application gone badly.

If you’ve studied all the risks and still decide to have a tattoo, its imperative you follow the proper safety precautions. Question your tattoo artist to find out what safety guidelines are followed, if any. Make sure you’re tattooed in an area that’s away from food, hazardous waste, trash and other unsanitary conditions. If you or the tattoo artist has a cut, scratch or open wound, make sure it’s well bandaged to prevent the spread of disease and infection. Make sure surgical gloves are free of tears and pinholes. Check gloves periodically. Make sure ink is opened in front of you and needles are either brand new or sterile.

Finally, after receiving a tattoo, make sure your tattoo artist provides you with a list of the proper after-care procedures and be sure to follow these procedures to the letter. Remember, to neglect your tattoo is to risk serious infection…or worse.

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