Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are tattoos safe?"
I'm thinking of getting my first tattoo soon. What could happen health wise if I do? Are there risks of infection or other health problems with tattoos?
Tattoo are very popular these days, and they are generally safe. However there are a few medical considerations to keep in mind. The most serious potential complication from getting a tattoo is the risk of contracting a blood borne infection such as hepatitis or HIV from a contaminated tattoo needle. This risk should essentially be zero as long as you choose a reputable tattoo parlor, as it is required by law that parlors adhere to the strictest standards in needle sterility and hygiene. However, if you have any doubts about a given tattoo parlor, you should definitely keep looking until you find a reputable one! More common side effects from tattoos include the risk of infection. The tattoo needle does break the skin, which can introduce bacteria. After the tattoo, you need to look out for any pain, spreading redness, pus, or fever, which would be signs of an infection and would require immediate evaluation and treatment by your doctor (this should be differentiated from the mild "sunburn" like reaction that is common and normal after getting a tattoo). Finally, some people are allergic to some of the dyes used in tattoos, especially (for whatever reason) red dyes. If you have more questions about getting a tattoo, talk to your primary care doctor who will be happy to discuss the issue with you!
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