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What Does an Infected Tattoo Look Like?

Identifying Signs of Infection in a Tattoo

An infected tattoo is no fun. If you’re wondering what the signs are, here’s a quick guide to spotting and treating tattoo infections.

The Early Signs

The first signs of infection usually show up in the first few days after getting inked. Keep an eye out for redness, swelling, pain, and oozing from your new tattoo. A little bit is normal as your skin heals, but too much indicates a problem. See your artist or doctor right away if symptoms seem severe.

Getting Hot and Inflamed

As the infection progresses untreated, swelling and inflammation around the tattoo will increase. The area will likely feel hot to the touch and may be incredibly itchy. Redness and a rash could spread beyond the borders of your design. You may also spot pus or other drainage. This calls for prompt medical care.

Owie! Growing Pain

Pain from a healing tattoo is one thing, but growing pain and tenderness likely means growing bacteria. An infected tattoo hurts more intensely when touched or bumped. The pain also refuses to get better with time. In fact, it usually gets worse without antibiotics. So don’t try to just “tough it out.”

When Ink Flows the Wrong Way

Tattoo infections can sometimes ooze, drip or weep clear fluid, blood or colored inky discharge. This happens when damaged skin struggles to heal. Don’t pick the scabs or scratch the itchy tattoo. This can pull out ink, spread germs deeper into the skin and cause permanent discoloration or scarring.

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to handle an infected tattoo is to avoid one in the first place. Always use a licensed artist at a certified shop that follows rigorous hygiene standards. Aftercare is also critical – follow your artist’s directions to keep your ink looking crisp and vibrant. If you do suspect an infection brewing, call your doctor right away. Prescription antibiotic creams or oral medications usually knock out stubborn bacteria.

For more information on tattoo pain and potential solutions, you can also check out our article on tattoo pain and numbing creams.

Summary

Significant redness, swelling, oozing, pain and heat are red flags for tattoo trouble. With prompt care, however, most infected ink can heal back to normal. Catching it fast prevents permanent skin damage. Keep a close eye on any new tattoos and seek medical advice at the very first sign of infection.

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