Want a tattoo? What you should know before you get one

If you like the idea of tattoos and you just love those tattoo colors, think again. On August 7, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration issued an FDA warning letter stating that not all tattoo ink is safe, and could cause skin infection.

The FDA's latest warning might make you think twice before getting a tattoo. (Credit: Kyra Bramble/Travelettes)

The FDA’s latest warning might make you think twice before getting a tattoo. (Credit: Kyra Bramble/Travelettes)

Tattooing may be popular now, but is it worth it to get a tattoo if it’s going make you sick? Here’s what you need to know about tattoo ink risks.

FDA warning

The FDA warning not only applies to tattoo parlors, it includes the ink used in the in-home tattoo kits. Through testing, the FDA found that these inks were contaminated with bacteria.

An August 7, 2014, article for PhiladelphiaCBSLocal.com, “FDA Issues Warning About Dangerous Tattoo Inks,” explained the danger.

“Infections from tattooing are nothing new. Hepatitis, staph infections and even the superbug known as MRSA have been tied to tattoos. Dirty needles and unsanitary environments are often to blame,” the article said.

Even if the tattoo artist applies the ink in the cleanest conditions, bacterial infection is still possible. If the infection is local to the tattoo site, the symptoms will include:

  • bumps on the skin
  • redness and swelling
  • blisters
  • pain
  • discharge 

If the infection spreads through the blood stream in a process known as sepsis, symptoms of infection include:

  • fever
  • shaking chills
  • sweats 

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away. Bad reactions to tattoos can happen either right after the tattooing or even years after the tattoo was applied.

Tattoo ink recall

Mary Clare Jalonick described the recent tattoo ink recall in her August 7, 2014, post for News.Yahoo.com, “FDA warns that tattoo inks can cause infections.”

The ink recall originated from the White and Blue Lion, Inc. company in California, when testing confirmed bacterial contamination in its in-home tattoo kits.

According to Jalonick, “The FDA says it is concerned that consumers and tattoo artists may have some of the contaminated products from the July recall. White and Blue Lion may have just been one distributor.”

So far there has been one confirmed case of skin infection linked to the company’s products. The FDA is tracking several more cases that could be linked to the infected ink.

The infected bottles of ink can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • a label with a multicolored Chinese dragon
  • black-and-white lettering
  • some bottles are missing the manufacturer’s information

The FDA advises consumers to use only inks where the brand name, manufacturer name and location are clearly indicated on the label.

Tattoo colors infection update

The FDA has posted consumer updates on its website where you can follow this story and sign up for e-mail updates.

According to Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, the risk of infection from tattoo inks is especially high for those who have pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems.

The FDA urges consumers to report any adverse reactions or side effects through FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

Tattooing during pregnancy

Contributor Kymberly of Pregnancyweekbyweekcalendar.info reminded readers of other tattoo dangers. In her August 4, 2014, article, “Is Getting Tattoo Safe for Pregnant Women?” Kymberly explained why women need to think twice before tattooing.

“During pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed and your skin becomes sensitive, so there is a great chance of infection,” Kymberly said.

If infected, you could pass the infection along to your baby during breastfeeding.

What do you think about the risks involved in getting a tattoo? Tell us in the comments.

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