Family Health Magazine - prevention
Get a tattoo, not an infection
As far as infection risk goes, getting a tattoo is much safer now than it was a generation ago, especially with single-use instruments. Most tattoo artists now use disposable instruments, meaning the instruments are used for only one client and then thrown out. However, some tattooists may still reuse, or may not properly clean and sterilize their instruments. Before having a tattoo done, it is important to be aware of the risk for infection and what can be done to lower your risk.
What risks are involved in getting a tattoo?
Tattooing creates a permanent design in the skin by puncturing the skin’s surface with a needle and depositing ink. Like other invasive procedures that pierce the skin, tattooing carries a risk of infection. Possible infections may include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes, tetanus and HIV. These risks can be practically eliminated with the use of single-use material. Infections caused by bacteria, such as cellulitis, can also occur when a new tattoo is not cared for properly.
How can I reduce my risk of infection?
Before getting a tattoo, confirm that the studio is routinely inspected. Facilities that are regularly visited by health inspectors are more likely to meet health standards.
Tattoo equipment, such as needles, tubes and grips, should be sterile when used. It is also best practice to have ink dedicated to a single person only. The tattoo artist should open the sterile packages of equipment immediately before tattooing. Needles must be single use. If your tattoo artist is using reusable tattoo tubes and grips, ask for a demonstration of how this equipment is cleaned and sterilized. If you have concerns about cleanliness or infection prevention measures, raise your issues with your public health unit.
Before and during the procedure, be sure to protect your health. Appropriate safety measures help ensure that your tattoo will be a source of pleasure rather than regret. As the procedure begins, watch that appropriate steps are being taken to prevent infection. If not, ask the tattoo artist to stop.
- Do you have a rash or broken skin? If so, it’s not the right time to get a tattoo.
- Has the studio recorded your name and contact information? This means you can be contacted if there are concerns about infection.
- Has the tattooist thoroughly cleaned their hands? Hand hygiene is important both before and after tattooing.
- Is a disposable blade or razor used to shave hair from your skin? Like tattoo equipment, razors should be sterile.
- Is a skin antiseptic used to clean the area to be tattooed? Expect to see an antiseptic, such as one with 70 per cent alcohol, used before the tattoo is started or a stencil is applied.
- Is the tattooist wearing disposable gloves? These gloves should be changed if the tattoo artist is interrupted and does something else.
Caring for your tattoo
Instructions for caring for your tattooed skin should be provided. Care includes the following.
- Protect the area from soil and dirt.
- Avoid swimming pools until the skin is healed.
- Wash the skin gently with soap and water.
- See a doctor if there is increasing redness and pain.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2019, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1 [PR_FHab19]