Not only are tattoos a beautiful and unique expression of your inner self, but they are also becoming more and more popular and accepted in today’s society. While this is fantastic for so many reasons, it does mean that there are more people putting themselves at risk of damaging their health if they don’t take the proper precautions. The most common and well-known risks include infection and allergic reactions, but these are not the only concerns. 

Can tattoos cause blood poisoning? Yes, tattoos can cause blood poisoning if the tattoo is done with dirty needles or in a dirty shop. While not common, blood poisoning can also develop if a fresh tattoo is not kept clean and bacteria enter the bloodstream through the freshly wounded skin. 

“Blood poisoning” is not actually the medical term for the condition it describes. All it is is an infection of the blood. Most people are aware that tattoos can and will cause infection when not taken care of, but not everyone thinks about blood infections specifically. While they are not terribly common in cases where tattoos are done professionally and cleaned properly, it can happen. When blood poisoning does happen, it can be deadly. 

How to Prevent Blood Poisoning From Your Tattoo 

There are several things you can do both before and after getting your tattoo that will prevent infections and blood poisoning. 

A Clean Shop

The first step is finding a tattoo shop that is clean, professional, and does things according to all health and safety regulations. It’s sad, but there are still some tattoo shops that will cut corners and break some rules to try and save money, and/or make things easier for themselves. The good news is that these shops are easy to spot if you know what to look for: 

  • Look up reviews online. Start your research before you even visit the shop. Social media is a good place to find accurate and honest reviews, as is Google. See what other people have to say, and pay attention to any negative comments. If the negative reviews are few and far between, don’t discount the shop. No place is ever perfect and disgruntled people will often go online to rant. However, if there are lots of comments about unprofessionalism or things seeming dirty, avoid the shop. 
  • Visit the shop. Once you’ve decided on a shop or two that you’ll consider, pay them a visit before committing to a tattoo. You can either schedule an appointment or consultation, or you can just show up. If all the artists are busy, there will at least be a receptionist to speak to. You can get a feel for the shop and see for yourself how clean it is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask about their health standards, tattooing procedures, and how everything is disinfected. If they have a problem answering your questions, it’s time to walk away. 
  • Watch the artist set up. Even once you’ve chosen a shop and booked your tattoo, it’s not too late to walk away if you don’t feel comfortable. Watch the setup process on the day of. Make sure they are disinfecting everything. This will put your mind at ease and ensure you have a safe, clean experience. 

Finding a good shop with high cleanliness standards and a professional atmosphere is one of the most important parts of ensuring your health and safety. If the shop is dirty, the artist doesn’t disinfect anything, and their equipment isn’t cleaned, you’re at a high risk of infection right away. 

A Clean Tattoo

Once you leave the shop, everything is up to you. Your artist will tell you exactly how you need to care for your new tattoo, and it’s imperative you follow these instructions. If blood poisoning is going to happen, it will happen in the early days when the skin is still freshly wounded. 

If you can make every effort to keep the tattoo protected and clean while it heals, you will greatly minimize the chances of it getting infected at all. 

Treat Infections Immediately

While it’s possible for a tattoo to cause an infection in the blood, it’s not usually the first thing to happen. If you’ve gotten to the point of blood poisoning, chances are, you had other infections first. 

If a tattoo becomes infected in any way and you don’t treat it, it’s obviously going to get worse. However, in addition to becoming worse and causing more severe symptoms, it can cause other infections to build and spread. This includes blood. If you let the infection sit there and don’t do anything about it, it may eventually lead to poisoning your blood. 

So, if your tattoo does become infected, do not wait to have it looked at and treated. Don’t try to get rid of it on your own. It’s not worth the risk that your home remedies won’t work. See your doctor immediately and determine the best form of treatment. In this way, you’re protecting yourself against more severe forms of infection like blood poisoning. 

How to Prevent Infection Entirely 

Rather than simply focusing on blood poisoning as it’s pretty rare, your best bet is to focus on the prevention of all infections. Doing so will be your best defense against blood poisoning – once you’ve left the shop, that is. Getting a tattoo in a dirty shop with dirty equipment is a breeding ground for infection before you even go home. 

Follow these tips to prevent infection: 

  • Wash your tattoo once a day with unscented, antibacterial soap. Follow with a small amount of unscented lotion. 
  • Wear loose, clean clothing around the tattoo while it heals. 
  • Keep the tattoo 100 percent protected from the sun until it’s healed. After that, wear sunscreen any time it will be exposed to the sun. 
  • Don’t submerge yourself in any water (pools, hot tubs, baths) until the tattoo is fully healed. 
  • If you do accidentally get your tattoo dirty in any way, wash it immediately. 
  • Wash your hands before touching or cleaning the tattoo. 

Doing all of these things will give you the best chance of avoiding infection. However, sometimes tattoos become infected regardless of your best efforts. It’s not terribly common, but it does happen.

Do Colors Cause More Infection Than Black and Grey? 

While there are many differences between getting a color tattoo and one that is simply black and grey, the risk of infection doesn’t tend to be one. 

It’s true that color tattoos will generally hurt more than black and grey. It’s also true that colors more often cause allergic reactions than black and grey. But, the risk of infection is more about dirt and bacteria getting into open skin. 

Many people find red to be more painful and irritating than most other colors. Perhaps if this color is causing extra irritation to your skin, it might be more susceptible to infection and may remain at risk for longer. 

That being said, getting a color tattoo vs a black and grey tattoo won’t put you at any significant additional risk for infection. If you’re concerned with minimizing pain and irritation, however, you may choose to go with black and grey and no color. 

Can a Healed Tattoo Become Infected?

 Once all layers of skin have healed, it’s not going to become infected unless the skin opens back up again somehow. This can be from an injury, or after you’ve gone for a touch-up or reworking of the tattoo. 

However, healed tattoos can cause other problems later on in life, even after healing. For example, you might develop an allergy to one or more ingredients in the ink many years after getting one or more tattoos. 

If this happens, you’ll have to decide how to proceed as it’s likely not something you can just leave alone. If the symptoms are extremely mild, such as minor itching or raising of the tattoo once in a while, you may choose to simply live with it. 

However, reactions are not usually so mild.  If you think your tattoo might be causing an allergic reaction, have a doctor check it out. There might be some medication you can take to deal with the reaction and mitigate issues in the future as well. 

Another option is having the tattoo removed. If the symptoms aren’t something you can either live with or treat, the best option, unfortunately, may be to remove the tattoo to prevent discomfort and future reactions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can never get another tattoo, though. If you can pinpoint exactly what you’re allergic to, you can avoid it in the future. 

It might be the ingredients in only one color that affects you. If this is the case, simply avoid that color and any colors that contain that ingredient. In other cases, it might be color altogether. There are some people who can only ever get black and grey tattoos. While this might be disappointing if they enjoy colorful designs, it’s better than nothing and worth the avoidance of allergic reactions every time they get inked.