Tattooing has come a long way in recent years and many regulations have been put into place. Tattoo shops used to be known as dirty, grimy places that would only give you an infectious disease. These days, any self-respecting tattoo shop is clean, professional, and follows all health codes. Tattooing has gone from dangerous and risky to relatively safe, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. Many people are left wondering if their tattoo is infected. How can you tell is a tattoo is infected?

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Getting a tattoo creates an open wound on your body and needs to be treated accordingly. One of the biggest risks and most common concerns regarding tattooing is an infection. If a tattoo becomes infected it could become very dangerous if left untreated. Once you get your tattoo and begin the healing process, it is important to monitor it closely for infection and contact your doctor at the first sign of any.

How can you tell if a tattoo is infected? Severe redness, swelling, irritation, and high fever are some of the most common signs that your tattoo may be infected. It is important to note that mild swelling and redness are normal and expected, so it is crucial that you monitor the tattoo closely during healing.

There are many risks that come with getting a tattoo, but infection is the biggest and most common concern for most. Tattoos that are applied poorly and/or neglected during the healing time are likely to get infected. Infections can be easy to spot if you are paying attention. They are also easy to prevent if you acquire the tattoo from a professional and follow the aftercare instructions carefully.

How Can You Tell if a Tattoo is Infected?

Getting a tattoo is an exciting and memorable experience, but it’s important to remember the aftercare that comes with it. One of the biggest concerns is the risk of infection. This can happen if bacteria enters the wound during the tattooing process or if proper care is not taken afterward. Here are some signs to look for to determine if your tattoo might be infected.

Firstly, check for extreme redness around the tattoo. Some redness and swelling is normal, especially for the first few days or so, but if the area is especially red and feels hot to the touch, this could be a sign of infection. Additionally, if the tattooed area becomes more painful instead of less, this could be another warning sign.

Another telltale sign is if the tattoo starts to ooze pus or other fluids. Any kind of discharge from the tattoo site should be monitored closely. It’s always important to keep the area clean and dry, so if it becomes excessively moist or develops a foul odor, this could indicate an infection.

Finally, keep an eye out for any signs of a fever or other malaise. If you develop a fever after getting a tattoo, it’s important to seek medical attention. This is a surefire indicator that there is something wrong, and prompt treatment is needed.

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Biggest Signs of Infection

If you are new to getting tattoos it is important to have a conversation with your artist about infection. There are many signs of infection that you can be paying attention to, but you also need to take note of the severity. There are a lot of things that are common and normal and are only a cause for concern when they become extreme or fail to get better after an extended period of time. If you are ever questioning anything, the first step is to get in contact with either your doctor or your artist. They will be able to tell you if there is a problem or not.

  • Severe or prolonged pain/swelling/redness. Some mild pain, redness, and swelling are normal – expected even. It is when one or all of these things become extreme or persistent.
  • A fever. Especially if the fever reaches 102F, infection is probable.
  • Muscle aches. Painful and aching muscles all over the body.
  • Bumps. Red bumps that are hard and/or raised may appear if an infection is developing.
  • Thirst. If you have an extreme and seemingly unquenchable thirst.
  • Sores. In some cases, sores may appear with an infection. These will usually either release or at least contain a thick fluid that is either white or yellow.
  • Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhea. These are some additional signs of infection.

These are the most common signs of a developing or worsening infection. If any of these begin to occur it is imperative that you take immediate action. Even if it is a false alarm, it is better to be safe than sorry. No respectful tattoo shop or artist will be upset with you for asking questions or requesting help, even if it doesn’t turn out to be serious. As you get more and more tattoos, monitoring for these things yourself will become easier.

Bacterial Infections

Fresh tattoos can be at risk for bacterial infections, as these are typically spread through contaminated equipment and ink. There is very little risk of bacterial infections occurring if you got your tattoo from a clean and professional shop that used sterile equipment. Even with the best efforts by all parties though, there is still a risk factor.

The most common bacterial infections to be associated with tattoos are Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. This is because Staphylococcus bacteria are such a common cause for skin infections in general. Your skin will become more susceptible right after getting a tattoo.

Many forms of the bacteria are treatable with regular antibiotics, with the exception of some strains – known as the MRSA infections – that have become resistant to most antibiotics. These will be more difficult to treat if contracted.

Those with an MRSA infection will usually experience severe body pain, a high fever, pneumonia, and some immune-related conditions like arthritis. These symptoms generally begin to appear one to two weeks after exposure to the bacteria.

Viral Infections

There are many types of viral infections that can be passed on from a contagious or contaminated source when the skin has been broken. Needles and other equipment that has not been cleaned are usually the culprits, which is why it is a concern when getting tattoos. As with bacterial infections, the risk is extremely low if the tattoo shop and artist you use follow all safety regulations, use the proper equipment, and keep everything clean.  

There are a few viral infections that can potentially be associated with tattoos:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Viral warts
  • Herpes simplex virus

Also Read: Do Tattoo Coverups Take Longer to Heal

Ink Toxicity

A study done in 2016 found that contamination rates reaching 10 percent or more are not uncommon in tattoo inks. With tattoos being such a growing trend, it is crucial that you find a reputable and transparent shop. Do your research and make sure you find a place that only uses top quality inks.

In addition to contamination, there are some people who will be allergic to the ink itself. Toxicity is not due to contamination, but it is more common that you would think. The most common allergen are molecules in the ink called haptens. They are mostly found in red, green, and blue ink.  

Unfortunately, allergic reactions to ink are often quite severe. It can cause blistering wounds that will usually require medical attention. They will become itchy, hard, and thick.

Preventing Infection

Finding a shop that is licensed will reduce your risk of infection. There are a few steps you can take and things to look out for that will tell you if a shop is good to use:

  • Only consider shops that have already been in business for several years and have a good amount of positive reviews.
  • Visit the shop and pay attention to the cleanliness of the place as a whole, not only the tattoo stations.
  • Ensure that ink containers are sterile and FDA approved.
  • Make sure the artist uses a sterile rinse or swab on your skin.
  • Make sure they are wearing sterile gloves the entire time.
  • If you have sensitive skin, tell the artist ahead of time. This will allow them to prepare ways to minimize irritation. They may suggest multiple sessions.

Even if you have gotten your tattoo from the cleanest, the most professional, and most popular shop in town, the responsibility is not all theirs. Once you leave the shop with your new tattoo, there are measures you can take to prevent infection as the tattoo heals:

  • Follow all aftercare instructions carefully, including cleaning and moisturizing the tattoo with appropriate products.
  • Wear clean, loose-fitting clothing around the tattoo site.
  • Wash your bedding frequently during the healing process.
  • Touch your tattoo as little as possible, and wash your hands thoroughly beforehand if touching it becomes absolutely necessary.
  • Do not let anyone else touch it.
  • If you have pets that shed, make sure their stray hairs don’t come in contact with the tattoo.

Treating Infection

All tattoos are going to produce some minor redness and inflammation. This can be reduced by lots of rest, as well as icing and elevating the location. You can also take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to help ease the discomfort in the first couple of days after getting the tattoo.

how to know if your tattoo is infected and how to treat it.

If an infection does occur, your doctor will most likely begin by recommending an antibiotic of some sort. It may come in the form of a pill, ointment, or cream. If the infection is more serious, they will take a small skin sample and send it to be tested. If you are experiencing a more serious case of infection, the treatment will be determined by whatever has caused the infection in that specific case.

Other Complications

As tattoos become more and more popular, more research and studies are being done to determine potential risks and complications. With more research, more things are being found out about tattoos. As more potential issues are discovered though, they are also doing additional research into preventing and treating these issues.

Some tattoo problems include:

  • Scarring.
  • Tattooed skin becoming increasingly sensitive to light.
  • Neurosensitivity and pain.
  • Lymph node disease.
  • Pigment possibly spreading to other areas.

Risk Level

Talking about the risks of getting a tattoo can be scary. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and some may become extremely wary of getting a tattoo done. While it is good to be informed and proceed with caution, you shouldn’t let the risks scare you off completely.

Getting the tattoo done properly in a reputable shop minimizes the risks of even minor infections significantly. Sterile, single-use equipment almost completely eliminates the risk of viral and bacterial infections. There are also plenty of steps you can take yourself to prevent infection. Be aware of the risks and their implications should it happen to you, but don’t let yourself get stressed out. If you are going to be worried and stressed about it, it may be better to avoid getting a tattoo as high levels of stress will affect proper healing.

How do you Treat an Infected Tattoo?

If you suspect that your tattoo is infected, it’s essential to take action quickly. The longer you wait, the worse the infection can become, potentially leading to serious health complications. That being said, it’s crucial to treat an infected tattoo with care, as you don’t want to aggravate the wound by using the wrong treatment.

The first step to treating an infected tattoo is to clean the area thoroughly. Use gentle soap and warm water to remove any dirt or debris from the wound. Rinse with cool water and pat dry with a clean, dry towel. Next, apply an antibacterial ointment to the infected area. Be sure to apply the ointment gently and avoid rubbing or aggravating the wound further.

Cover the area with a sterile bandage to keep it clean and protected. You should also try to keep the infected area elevated and avoid any strenuous activity that could cause further irritation. It’s essential that you give your body time to heal, and being too active too soon can cause additional complications. If your tattoo is severely infected, it’s vital to seek medical attention immediately.

A medical professional can prescribe antibiotics and provide other necessary treatments to help your body fight the infection. Remember, prevention is always the best treatment for an infected tattoo. Be sure to follow all aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist, and if you notice any signs of infection, take immediate action to prevent it from getting worse.

Is My Tattoo Infected or Just Healing?

It’s completely normal to feel a little worried after getting a tattoo because it’s a fresh wound that needs to heal properly. If you’re seeing any unusual signs on or around the tattoo, it’s possible that it may be infected. It’s essential to know whether your tattoo is infected or just healing because early action can prevent further damage.

If your tattoo has a fresh wound, it is normal to experience some redness, tenderness, and swelling in the area. However, if these symptoms are accompanied by other concerning signs, it could mean that something is not quite right. Early signs of an infected tattoo can include excessive redness, heat, and pain around the area.

You might also experience a rash or pimples at the tattoo site, along with fever and chills. If you notice any of these symptoms or the tattoo feels hot to the touch, it’s time to take action. If you’re still unsure about the severity of your tattoo’s symptoms, you could try waiting a day or two or get the advice of a trained medical professional.

In the meantime, you should clean the tattoo with a mild soap and lukewarm water every day and avoid touching it with dirty hands. If you do notice an infection, treatment options include antibiotic ointments or oral antibiotics to halt the infection, and cold compresses to help control swelling. But remember, prevention is better than cure, so ensure you are taking proper tattoo aftercare measures to minimize your risk of infection.

Can an Infected Tattoo Heal on its Own?

As much as we would like to believe that our bodies can fix themselves, the truth is that an infected tattoo cannot heal on its own. Ignoring the signs and symptoms of an infected tattoo and hoping it will fix itself is a risky gamble that could lead to permanent damage to your skin. An infected tattoo is similar to any other wound, and it requires immediate attention and care.

Without sufficient care, the infection can spread to other parts of your body, and the pus-filled blisters can become septic, which can be life-threatening. When left untreated, an infected tattoo can lead to further complications that could be challenging to manage. These complications include scarring, discoloration, and disfigurement, and they can impact the appearance and health of your skin.

If you suspect that your tattoo is infected, seek professional medical help to ensure that the infection is treated correctly. A timely intervention can help reduce the severity of the condition and limit the extent of the damage caused. While it might be tempting to try to treat the infection on your own, it is crucial to understand that self-treatment is not enough.

Even if the infection appears to subside, there might still be lingering bacteria that could resurface later and cause further damage. Therefore, if you suspect that your tattoo might be infected, do not hesitate to seek professional medical help. Your health and wellbeing are too important to risk on the hope that your tattoo will heal itself.


Knowing the early warning signs of an infected tattoo can help you stay on top of any complications that may arise after getting inked. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t delay in seeking medical attention. Remember, safety first, always!

Getting a tattoo can be a life-changing experience. It’s an awesome way to express yourself and show off your personality. However, it’s critical to pay attention to the signs that your tattoo might be infected. It’s not something you should ignore! By recognizing the warning signs early on, you can avoid serious health problems down the line.

So, how can you tell if a tattoo is infected? Keep an eye out for redness, swelling, and pain around the tattoo. If you notice these symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult with a doctor. Getting the right treatment as soon as possible is crucial to preventing further complications. In addition, make sure to practice good hygiene and follow the aftercare instructions given by your tattoo artist.

This includes keeping the tattoo clean and dry and avoiding wearing tight clothing that could rub against it. Remember, tattoos are a beautiful art form, but they require care and attention to ensure they stay that way. Keep a lookout for the signs of infection and take action immediately if you suspect something might be wrong. Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep on expressing yourself through your ink!

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