What To Do With An Infected Tattoo

March 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm (tattoo) (, , , , , , , , , , )


Hundreds of people get tattoos everyday and hundreds and thousands of people never have to deal with an infected tattoo. However, tattoos can get infected just as easily as anything else. This is why it is so important to properly care for your tattoo after you have gotten it. Don’t assume it will heal on its own without help from you. The most important thing about caring for a tattoo is making sure it is clean and staying away from water. You should not submerge your tattoo in water. When taking a shower its you should try your hardest to get your tattoo wet as little as possible. You should also put some kind of healing ointment on your tattoo at least twice a day. The most common healing ointments for tattoos are Bacitracin Zinc, A & D Ointment, Petroleum and Neosporin.

If you suspect that your tattoo maybe  infected there is really one thing that you should do, go to your doctor. They will be able to treat and diagnose it. More often than not they will simply give you antibiotic and might take a blood test to be on the safe side. The tale tell signs of an infected tattoo are increased pain, swelling, redness, heat, or tenderness around the tattoo, red streaks extending from the area, pus coming from the wound, swollen or tender lymph nodes, and or a fever. Please note that when you first get a tattoo your skin will be red and tender and your tattoo may very well ooze some pus this is normal. However, if this should occur a few days after your tattoo, then it is pretty safe to bet it is infected and should be treated immediately. If you are not sure if your tattoo is infected and don’t want to spend the money seeing a doctor, revisit your tattoo artist and see if they can confirm the infection then head to the doctor.

Your Tattoo Friend


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  1. Charlie said,

    Hi Ashley. My name is Charlie. I have a feeling that my tattoo is infected. I am 17 and my mother don’t know about it and I cain’t tell her or it will be the end of the world. And I live in a really small town and work t the hospital. Everyone kows everyone. If I go to our family doctor he will call my mother. If I go to the hospital I will haveto call my mom cause i’m 17. Any advice. My tattoo is in the same spot as the picture above. But it’s juss red and is retaining alot of water and heat. the other nurses I work with told me it’s infected. What do I do?

    • Ashley said,

      The only thing I can tell you is to go to your tattoo artist and ask what they think. But you need to get yourself to some sort of docotor ASAP b/c it could led to much worse things. You can get very sick from it. Sorry dude but you need to either tell your mom or go to a clinic that’s not in your little town.

  2. tattoo jen said,

    hello, i have a week old tattoo that i got at a convention in reno. the guy went over it again when he thought he was finished becaause i wanted the black around the heart to be darker. so he did and it looked fine. i went back to the hotel room, washed gently all the slimy stuff off before bed and put on some un-scented lotion as that was all i had. when i got home i used tattoo goo till now. well most the tatoo is fine, it is not my first but my 5th, and the edges around the heart got a little more raised/scabby like. which my hubs said is normal especially since he went over that part several times that day. yesterday i got out of the shower and some small peices of that scabbing had come off. i did not scub of course. i put on the lotion as usual. later that night i looked at it and there were 2 spots in that heart outline, missing scab, and they were kinda clear shiny. i thought it might be puss as the tattoo shouldnt leak clear liqiud after a week of healing right? now i wonder if its infected? no redness, swelling , pain. just itchy which i donot itch at it though. the liquid is not smelly or yellow or colored. i could almost see a bit of blood color underneath the clear. my prblem is i am 24 but have no healthcare currenty. cant go to a doctor. should i buy some anti-biotics? i donot know if they sell that over counter i may have to buy on the street. every tattoo artist reccommends someting diff to use on tattoo, some say neasporin or don not use that, some a and d, some petrolum, some just lotion. please email me at penguins4kali@comcast.net. thanks!


  3. Raven6972 said,

    Background info: This is my 10th tattoo. I have another on the other foot that wraps around the ankle. No real other problems with any tattoo except #2 and it seemed to take longer to heal around the red ink. I’ve since had another tattoo (#9) using a different red and had no problems. Anyway this tattoo was done June 13 (Saturday) and was fine until the following Thursday. I used bacetracin ointment like always for the rest of Saturday and Sunday. On Monday I switched to Lubriderm. The only mistake I can see I might have made here was that I didn’t use it for a full two days. Anyway I believe Thursday morning I woke up (It’s hard to remember we were moving, I was finishing a semester) with strange bite marks in the tattoo and going up my leg. In one spot there were three bites of some kind that swelled and had greenish pus to them. I assume I was bit in the night by a spider or something. At first I didn’t think it had bit the tattoo area only around it but later I noticed they were in the tattoo site also. Ok the following Monday I had my artist and her boss look at it and they agreed it was infected and could also see the raised up pus areas that had to be bite marks. By the way, this is the 4th tattoo I have had done by her. They suggested I go to the Dr. and get an antibiotic but not to let them do anything else like put ointment or scrub it. She recommended I let it dry out completely. She said it would form a hideous scab and be totally nasty looking until it healed. The first Dr gave me bactrim and an anti-inflammatory drug. The warnings on the anti-inflammatory drug said it may reduce the bodies ability to heal infection. The area did respond to the first dose of medicine but it wasn’t completely healed and still had pus and ink going everywhere. I went to my university’s clinic and they sent me to the hospital advising that I needed IV antibiotics and maybe a culture. I was willing to do that thinking that getting rid of the problem was more important than the tattoo. By this time, I was in a lot of pain and could not walk with a shoe at all. I went to the miserable hospital here and the first Dr (a student I think, it’s a teaching hospital). said it was a skin infection but he needed to let his teacher or whatever he was look at it for sure. This guy was a total jerk who not only treated me like crap (I have almost as much education as him, just in a different field) but also told me the only way he would treat me was if I was admitted into the hospital and given IV antibiotics and had surgery the next day to remove all the dead skin. This was impossible to do at that time and I was concerned about this particular dr. doing anything to me because they ran no tests other than a basic blood panel that showed no elevated white cell count. He made this decision based on a visual inspection of my foot. I tired to explain that it had improved and could probably improve more with another or different antibiotic. He refused to do anything for me and said the tattoo was infected there was never any bites.

    Sorry this is so long but I thought it best to include everything.

    After I left there, I was in a total panic. I was not having surgery with this moron and I felt I had no where else to go that would treat me without wanting to cut off the skin on my foot. I believe surgery should be the LAST option not the first. At this point I could barely walk at all and was afraid I was going to lose my foot. I kind of freaked out and started washing it with antibacterial soap and covering it with gauze because I was still attending the last few days of my semester. This covering caused me horrible agony when it was removed because it removed some of the scab too. I talked to my artist again and she was horrified at what the Dr. had said and told me again to not wash it and put nothing on it. I decided to go with this ever since then. It’s now July 25 and after taking some antibiotics I obtained from Mexico, it is better. The scab is receding and is a lighter shade. There is no more pus that I can tell. The peeling around my foot from swelling has almost gone away completely. The only real pain I have is when I first wake up and put the foot down or at night when I have been walking a lot. It still seems to swell a little bit and is uncomfortable. It healed some on its own as there was a couple weeks of delay between the first antibiotic and the second but I went from only being able to hobble around walking on the side of my foot to just this past week, being able to walk flat footed. This last dose of the antibiotic erythromycin seems to have removed the infection. It still looks kind of horrible though but better compared to several weeks ago. I guess I just want someone to tell me they have seen this before. It’s not a normal infection because I honestly believe I was bitten by something and I have not seen that covered in any of the other questions.

    On a side note, I found out I can get antibiotics from India from http://www.the-drug-store.com mailed to me and I have in my possession, some zithromax that I’m debating on taking or not. Since I can’t seem to depend on the medical community in San Antonio, I have decided that I can go these other routes to obtain the medicine necessary to keep my foot and all of its skin.

    While it is legal to obtain antibiotics from Mexico for personal use, I don’t recommend trying to bring anything else without a prescription. I have personally obtained antibiotics this way and DECLARED them without incident. This last box I obtained someone else brought it back for me since walking was a problem. Apparently this online store works out ok because I received the medication without incident. I found out about it on a tattoo website when I was desperately searching for information. My intentions in posting this are to try to help someone else or compare notes. I can’t seem to find any real pictures of what an infection looks like. I am happy to share mine with someone facing the same problem. Raven6972@msn.com

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