How to Tell if Your Tattoo is Infected and What to Do About it


Young woman posing in studio

What’s NOT to love about tattoos? They are an extension and visual representation of who you are, what you love and what your aesthetic is. But whether you got one to commemorate a huge milestone, or you got one because it’s trendy, one thing remains the same: Your tattoo could contract an infection. Say what? Any time trauma is inflicted to the skin resulting in an open wound (or, in this case, teeny, tiny needle punctures) you are essentially at risk, but there are ways to make sure that you don’t have to go down that painful, puss-filled road. Here’s how to tell if your tattoo is infected, and what you can do to heal it.


Red Flag #1: Tenderness & Swelling

While it’s totes normal for there to be some tenderness and swelling after small needles have been jabbing into your skin, this should subside after a few days, and be getting better rather than more sensitive. Also, if there is a lot of heat radiating from the afflicted area as well, you should definitely be keeping an eye on it to see whether it will subside or whether a GP trip is on the cards.



Red Flag #2: Suspicious Secretions

The day you get fresh ink, you will generally have clear or ink-filled snot-like secretions you’ll need to wash off at the end of the day. This is plasma, and it’s completely normal considering what your skin has just been through. If, however, the secretions are green or yellow, have a funky odour or you develop pustules or bubbles in the area, consider yourself infected, baby.



Red Flag#3: Feverish Feelings

While the easiest and most obvious way to figure out if you are infected is by inspecting the area. But that isn’t the only way, and infections can also come with seemingly-unrelated symptoms. For example, if you have developed an infection, you might feel quite under the weather. So if you recently got inked, and are now feeling barely alive, there’s a chance you have an infection. Sorry.



So I have an infection. What should I do?

I’m glad you asked. Infections are not something that you should simply ignore, no matter how big of a risk-taker you consider yourself to be. The best thing to do is to book an appointment either with a dermatologist or your GP, who will prescribe topical and / or oral antibiotics that should help to clear it. In other words, this is not something that can or should be treated without the input of a medical professional. Consider yourself warned.

It should be noted that infections can be avoided if you a) visit a legit studio that practices proper health and safety, and b) make sure that you listen and follow through when it comes to tattoo aftercare. Because, as they say, prevention is better than a cure. Don’t lose any limbs to gangrene, peeps!

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