What are the Known Risks of Getting a Tattoo?
There are a number of health issues that can arise from getting a tattoo. These should be treated as potential side-effects/problems that are on the whole uncommon but are possibilities to take into account ahead of deciding to get inked.
The risks listed by the FDA include:
Infection – We are all aware that unhygienic needles can pass on infections like hepatitis and HIV, so ensuring the artist is following proper sterilization methods is important (more on that below).
Allergies – Some people are unfortunately allergic to the ink pigments present in both temporary and permanent tattoos, especially if they are allergic to other things like hair dye. An allergy can manifest as a rash or inflammation and must be treated in a timely manner to guard against further complications. Allergic reactions can vary though. For a more complete overview, please click here.
Granulomas - Tattoo ink is a foreign substance to the body and in some circumstances the body will react to tattoos by creating granulomas, which feel like small knots or bumps, around and under the tattoo site.
MRA Concerns – On rare occasions, those with tattoos undergoing an MRA may experience swelling or a burning sensation in the area of the body on which they have their tattoo. This, again, is uncommon and does not last long. Informing medical staff that you have a tattoo so that precautions can be taken will solve this.
What Can I Do to Make Sure My Tattoo Won’t Cause Me Health Issues?
While currently there is no safety guarantee in the EU to ensure that tattoo ink is properly quality controlled, those seeking a tattoo should feel confident in asking the artist what kind of inks they use and what is in them: if the artist has a good knowledge of the inks, this may be enough to reassure.
If further reassurances are needed, you can request the use of specific inks, though obviously they would have to be ordered in and this is at the artist’s discretion — many may notl feel comfortable working with inks they have not previously used.
Tattoo.com reports there are some inks that are specifically made to be free of solvents and all PET plastics as well as other impurities, and names John Montgomery’s Alla Prima Ink as a particular choice that is also suitable for vegans too. Those seeking a tattoo might therefore wish to research the inks on offer at a particular tattoo parlor.
There are also a few simple steps that you can take to minimize your chance of infection from other variables.
While there are no formal training procedures for tattoo artists, there are good practices that can reassure you the artist is a professional.
For instance, the artist should be willing to show examples of their work, allowing you to gauge their expertise and the results of their efforts.
They should also use what is known as a steam autoclave sterilizer that will ensure the needles they are using are sterile. Current advice is that you should always ask to see the autoclave, which the artist should be happy to show you. If they are not, or they do not have an autoclave, this should raise concerns. Also, check the condition of the autoclave. Does it look like it is functioning properly?
To find out more questions you should ask and safety tips for when you get your tattoo, please click here.
Image credits: Thinkstock.
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