Approximately 1 in 5 Americans has a tattoo. In the 18- to 30-year-old age group, that number increases to almost 30%. For parents giving permission and for teens getting tattoos on their own, be careful and be safe if you decide to get a tattoo or piercing, says Dr. Mason Gomberg, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, in his recent blog.
Before getting a tattoo, know the risks
Tattoos break the skin, making skin infections and other complications possible, including:
Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue — can cause allergic reactions at the tattoo site, such as an itchy rash. This can occur even years after getting the tattoo. Also, in some people, a semi-permanent henna tattoo has been associated with a severe allergic skin reaction and permanent scarring.
Skin infections. A bacterial skin infection is possible after tattooing.
Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various blood-borne diseases including HIV, tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
MRI complications. On rare occasions, tattoos can cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image.
Before getting a tattoo, ask these questions:
- Who will be doing the tattooing? Go to a reputable, licensed tattoo establishment that employs only properly trained, experienced employees. Keep in mind that regulation requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations.
- Will the tattoo artist wear gloves? Make sure the tattoo artist washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of sterile protective gloves for each procedure.
- Does the tattoo artist use proper equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist removes the needle and tubes from sealed packages before your procedure begins. Any pigments, trays or containers should be unused as well.
- Does the tattoo artist sterilize non-disposable equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist uses a heat sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all non-disposable equipment between customers. Instruments and supplies that can’t be sterilized with an autoclave (including drawer handles, tables and sinks) should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.
If you develop a problem, it’s very important to see a doctor
If your tattoo or piercing isn’t healing properly or you think it might be infected, contact your physician. If you’re interested in having your tattoo removed, ask a dermatologist about laser surgery or other options for tattoo removal.
For more information, advice and tips, come in and see us
If you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s healthcare, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians to come in and talk about it. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Gomberg’s blog in full, click here.