Infected tattoo: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Infected tattoo or tattoo infection is really a nightmare for any tattoo lover. Many people adore getting tattoos done on various body parts like arms, belly, back, etc. Having tattoos is a way of expressing themselves for some people. Tattoos make a person look stylish and unique.

But, a person getting tattoos done might experience some problems like tattoo infection or infected tattoo if the tattoo is not done with proper precautions. So, let us learn everything about the infected tattoo causes, symptoms, treatment options and the ways you can prevent it.

What causes an infected tattoo?

infected tattoo

There are many different causes of an infected tattoo ranging from unhygienic skin to improperly skilled tattoo artist. Let us explore all the possible causes of an infected tattoo.

1. Unhygienic skin:

The skin or the area where you wish to get your tattoo done needs to be clean and hygienic. There are many bacteria living on our skin without causing any harm. These bacteria are called commensals. But, they do cause illness or harm if your immune system is weakened or there is any factor that helps in the growth of these bacteria.

If you don’t wash and clean your skin before getting a tattoo done, the harmful bacteria can enter the tattoo wound and grow in huge numbers and lead to tattoo infection.

2. Accompanying sick people:

You need to be away from any sick people after you get your tattoo. If you move around with any sick or ill people who have illnesses like cold, flu, skin disorders or infections, you might catch the infection from them which might lead to infected tattoo.

3. Using unhygienic clothes or bed linen:

When you have got your tattoo done, you need to make sure that all the clothes, towels and bed linen you use are clean, neat and hygienic. You need to wash all the clothes being used by you with some good detergent.

Using dirty clothes spreads the dirt from the clothes to the wound of the tattoo. This dirt acts as a breeding ground for many harmful microbes like bacteria which leads to tattoo infection.

4. Using dirty hands to touch the tattoo:

Many people getting tattoos done are really fond of some other hobbies like gardening which involves playing with mud and dirt. You also might need to do the cleaning, dusting, and mopping of your house to keep it clean.

Try to avoid gardening or cleaning dirty objects for few days until your tattoos heal to avoid contracting an infection of the tattoo.

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5. Using infected moisturizers and creams:

You might need to use moisturizers or lotions to keep your skin hydrated, soft and supple. But, you need to ensure that all the beauty products you use still have expiry dates. They must be clean and without any foul smell.

If you happen to use any infected lotions or creams due to using expired products, you might end up infecting your tattoos.

6. Using unhygienic equipment:

All the equipment that is being used to get tattoos done needs to be hygienic. It needs to be sterilized properly prior to getting the tattoo done. Otherwise, the wound caused by the tattoo will get infected with the bacteria from the dirty equipment and leads to tattoo infection.

This problem can occur if you visit an untrained and unskilled person to get your tattoo done. Some people get tattoos done from such people as they might offer you lucrative offers and discounts.

Whenever you want to get your dream tattoo and want to avoid developing infections, ensure to go to a skilled and trained tattoo artist. Make sure that the artist has a good reputation. Enquire from your friends and other people about their experiences with the artist. Try to read online reviews.

Other causes of developing infected tattoo:
  • Wearing clothes that irritate your skin, prevent healing of the wound and lead to tattoo infection.
  • Swimming in swimming pools before the wound heals, as the pool might harbor many bacteria from many different individuals.
  • Wearing clothes that are dirty and infect your wound.
  • Wearing clothes that are very tight and don’t allow the flow of proper air to the wound.

What are the symptoms of infected tattoo?

There are many different symptoms of a tattoo infection ranging from mild pain to severe blisters on the wound. Let us explore them further.

1. Pain:

You all know that getting a tattoo done is very painful. Our skin is very sensitive and has many nerve fibers innervating it. Whenever we have even a small wound on our skin, you will experience pain as the nerve fibers carry the pain sensation to our brain.

As our skin is pierced and damaged during the tattoo process, you will surely have some amount of pain after the tattoo is over. But, the pain should subside eventually. Also, the amount of pain is less if you take some over the counter pain killer medications.

But, if your pain is not subsiding at all, or if your pain increases in intensity over the course of time, it might be a sign of infected tattoo. If your pain is not subsiding with pain killer tablets or if you have any other symptoms like redness, swelling, etc associated with pain, it might implicate that you have developed tattoo infection.

2. Itching:

Itching is also known as pruritus. When bacteria invades the wound of the tattoo, our body’s immunity system tries to fight the infection. Many types of cells of the immune system like white blood cells or WBC’s like lymphocytes try to fight the bacteria.

During this process of fighting with the bacteria in the infected tattoo, you tend to develop a sense of itching or pruritus. So, itching is also a symptom of tattoo infection.

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3. Erythema:

Erythema or redness can be seen over the tattoo if your wound is infected with any kind of microbial infection like bacteria. Whenever there is an attack of harmful bacteria on your wounds, our body tries to get rid of the bacteria by an immune mechanism called inflammation.

When your wound undergoes inflammation, there are many changes in the skin like redness, swelling, heat, pain, etc. But, if your immune system or immunity levels are strong enough, you can get rid of the infection and soon your redness or erythema will subside.

4. Swelling:

When your tattoo is infected with any microbe like bacteria, your skin will become swollen or inflamed. Do you know why this swelling occurs? The immune system of your body tries to fight all the infections attacking your body. Your immune system is your protector.

Swelling of the wound is the sign that your immune system is working properly and attacking the bacteria and fighting the infection. But, you need to visit your physician as soon as you see the signs like swelling, redness, etc. Otherwise, the infection can spread to the surrounding skin and further spread the swelling.

5. Hot wound or skin:

There are many different symptoms of inflammation as we have discussed above. Calor or heat production is also one of the symptoms of the infected tattoo. When you touch the tattoo or the surrounding skin, it feels hot to touch. You will need to take antibiotics to cure the infected and get rid of tattoo infection.

6. Pus discharge:

Generally, when you get a tattoo done, a clear liquid oozes out in the initial stages when your body tries to heal the wound in the skin. But, eventually, the oozing of the clear liquid diminishes and the wound becomes dry.

But, if your tattoo becomes infected, you will notice a yellow or green fluid known as pus oozing from the tattoo wound. Pus discharge is a sure sign of infected tattoo, which warrants medical attention.

7. Foul smell:

If you have developed a tattoo infection, the bacteria invading the wound produces a stinky smell or foul odor that is really unpleasant. This sign of infected tattoo should make you visit a doctor soon to prevent any further complications.

8. Red streaks:

You might notice red streaks on the skin of the tattoo if your wound is infected with any bacterial infection. These red streaks can spread further away from the wound of the tattoo as the infection keeps spreading further. You shouldn’t neglect these symptoms.

9. Fever:

Whenever your body is attacked by any kind of infection, your body tries to fight back by producing inflammation of the wound. Also, there is an elevation of body temperature when you are suffering from an infection.

Bacterial infections show high temperatures or fever in comparison to the viral fevers. You will also suffer from lethargy, weakness, and malaise if you have an infected tattoo.

10. Blisters:

All the above signs and symptoms of infection are surely seen if you have developed a tattoo infection. But, in some people, blisters can also develop over the wound due to infection. Blisters are the fluid-filled bag or sac-like structures made of skin. These blisters can be filled with yellow or green pus or clear fluid.

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How to treat infected tattoo?

You will need to visit your physician who will diagnose your infection and suggest you appropriate treatment regimen to cure your infected tattoo fast. You also will need to follow certain home remedies to help heal the infection and wound fast.


As the infection of the tattoo is mainly caused by bacterial infection, you will need to take certain drugs or medications to curb the infection called antibiotics. Your physician might prescribe you antibiotic creams or ointments to apply over the wound. The most commonly used antibiotic creams contain Bacitracin, Neosporin, etc.

Your physician might also prescribe you oral antibiotics like ofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, roxithromycin, erythromycin, etc to kill the bacteria fast. If your infection is quite severe, your physician might also need to prescribe intravenous antibiotics.

Home remedies and tips:
  • First, you need to keep your hands clean and hygienic before handling the tattoo wound.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and pat them dry.
  • Wash your tattoo gently with a good antibacterial soap.
  • Try to wash off all the pus and discharges from the infected tattoo wound.
  • Don’t try to remove the scab or crust from the tattoo wound. Just remove the superficial dust or dirt and the pus or fluid discharges.
  • Pat the wound dry with a clean and hygienic towel.
  • Apply the antibiotic cream or ointment prescribed by your doctor.
  • You can cover your wound with any bandage or gauge as suggested by your physician.
  • Don’t immerse your wound in the water anytime. Keep your wound clean and dry to facilitate faster healing.
  • Follow all the advice given by your physician properly.

How to prevent tattoo infection?

Getting rid of tattoo infection can be a really daunting task. So, it is better to prevent the infection in the first place. Let us look at some steps you can take to prevent the infection.

Choose a certified or well-trained tattoo artist:

When you want to get a tattoo done, ensure you choose the tattoo artist who has a good reputation amongst your peers, has good reviews and is well trained and has a lot of experience in performing the task.

You must ensure that the equipment being used to create a tattoo over you is completely clean and sterilized. Never visit a tattoo artist who is completely new and unskilled.

Keep your clothes hygienic:

As we have seen that dirty clothes, bed linen, and towels can lead to tattoo infections, you need to be really cautious about all the clothes you use after getting your tattoo done. Don’t use any clothes which are dirty. Wash all your clothes in a good antibacterial detergent.

Don’t wear wet or moist clothes. You need to dry the clothes completely before using them. Wet clothes can be breeding grounds for bacteria and other infections. So, never use improperly dried clothes.

Don’t wear irritating clothes:

You need to allow proper air flow to the tattoo wound. You need to wear loose clothes. Don’t wear tight fitting clothes which irritate the skin. Try to wear cotton clothes which absorb the moisture and keep your tattoo wound dry. Don’t wear clothes made of synthetic materials.

Infected tattoo pictures:

tattoo infection

infection of tattoo

tattoo infection pictures
You have seen all the causes, symptoms, treatment options and prevention methods for an infected tattoo. Hope you take proper precautions and avoid contracting tattoo infections.

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