ZocdocAnswersCan tattoos cause infection?

Question

Can tattoos cause infection?

How can you tell if your tattoo is infected? I got a big chest piece completed almost a week ago, and today it's still really red and inflamed-feeling, and I think I have a low fever. Can a tattoo get infected? If so, can I use topical antibiotics on it?

Answer

Anytime there is penetration of ones skin, there is a potential for infection. Even during surgeries, when the best sterile technique is used, there are always some wounds that become infected. In the case of tattoo placement, sterile technique is supposed to be used, but the conditions are far from ideal and mistakes are made all the time. If the area around your tattoo is red, inflamed, and you have a fever, then likely you have a soft tissue infection such as cellulitis. If this is the case, then you will need systemic antibiotics. Topical antibiotics are not sufficient for this type of infection. You will need at the very least a prescription for oral antibiotics and possibly intravenous antibiotics if the wound area is severe enough. It is possible that you will need antibiotics that can kill staph aureus including the dangerous Methicillin resistant staph aureus (also known as MRSA). Only a qualified health care professional can evaluate your infection and determine the right mode of treatment. I suggest you either schedule an appointment to see your primary care physician today, or present to the emergency room. These infections can progress very quickly and can cause many compilations. This is not something that you want to "wait and see." Good luck.

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