Infection From Tattoos: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

An infected tattoo can be serious. The area around your tattoo may be painful, swollen, red, and hot. You may see red streaks or pus at the tattoo site. You may have a fever or swollen or tender lymph nodes.

It's important to take good care of your infection at home so it doesn't get worse.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your infected tattoo, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the tattoo with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the tattoo with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You lose feeling in the area near the tattoo, or it feels numb or tingly.
  • The skin near the tattoo turns pale or cool.
  • The tattoo starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your symptoms are getting worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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