Table of contents for Tattoo health issues
When we think about “health issues” associated with tattoos, the first things that come to mind are serious stuff like hepatitis and major infections. While those issues must be high on anyone’s list of cautions, tattooed people are more likely to have other, less major problems that can be avoided or lessened by simply taking time to think things through.
In the beginning…. you.
Don’t set foot in the tattoo parlor before you take stock of your own health. Do you have a chronic illness like diabetes, or an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis? Do you have nickel allergies, or a tendency to form keloids? Do you catch colds often or get sick easily? None of that can absolutely prevent you from getting a tattoo (I say, as a multicolored Type 2 diabetic with nickel allergies) but don’t put yourself at risk by pretending you’re perfectly fine and sailing right on in to the shop.
If you have a chronic problem, chances are you’re well aware of how you react, but let me go into some detail here: Diabetics take a lot longer to heal. People with RA risk pushing themselves into a flare-up by doing things that challenge their immune systems (and a tattoo is an open wound that your immune system must heal). Some tattoo inks cause reactions in people with nickel allergies. And a person who forms keloids is almost certainly going to end up with keloids under the ink. People who get sick easily may have compromised immune systems even if they have no more serious disease.
So don’t be lah-di-dah about the risks. You know how your body reacts. (It might help to check with your doctor, but some doctors are against tattoos on general principles and will tell you no even if it might be OK for you to proceed with caution. A second opinion might not hurt.) Do some research, and make sure that you are in optimum health. You don’t want to walk out of the shop with a new tattoo and a major health problem as well.
And for heaven’s sake don’t lie to your tattoo artist or “forget” to inform him or her about your health. If the artist feels that tattooing you would be too risky and declines, pay attention to the reasons. Don’t argue about it. The artist has been through this a lot more than you have.
A word about allergies
I mentioned nickel allergies, which may cause problems with blue and green inks. Red ink seems to be a very common allergen as well, but unfortunately there is no way to predict whether you’ll react to it. If you’re concerned, and your design has a lot of red in it, it might help to go in at least 24 hours in advance and ask the artist to put a small dot of red ink in some inconspicuous place to see how you’ll react.
One of the most common allergies you might have to contend with when getting a tattoo is an allergy to latex. Artists commonly wear latex gloves. If you have a latex allergy, you can ask your artist to wear something else. You may want to let the artist know about this when you make your appointment, so he or she can be prepared with nitrile or other gloves.
And if you’re allergic to fish oil, check to see what your artist uses on a finished tattoo. Some common ointments contain cod liver oil and may give you a serious reaction if applied to your skin.
Getting a tattoo can be a profoundly satisfying experience, and a lot of us multicolored people have found that just one tattoo is nowhere near enough. But it’s just plain stupid to put your life at risk. If your health is under control and you’ve been honest with your artist… well, the multicolored world awaits you.