Body art gone wrong: How to spot, care for an infection

771251_59833356While most people may choose a postcard or refrigerator magnet to commemorate their spring break, others make more impulsive decisions and return home with a permanent reminder, like a tattoo or piercing.

Dr. Ida Orengo, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, said it’s important to get tattoos in clean, reputable tattoo parlors.

“Make sure they are not reusing needles,” she said. “This may increase your risk for Hepatitis and HIV.”

It’s of equal important to take care of the skin after getting a piercing or tattoo, and to watch for signs of infection, said Dr. Jeffrey Steinbauer, professor of family and community medicine at Baylor.

Signs of infection include:

  • Discharge (often yellow)
  • Spreading redness and warmth around the tattoo or piercing
  • Increasing swelling and tenderness beyond 24 hours after the procedure

If signs of infection are present, initial treatment includes:

  • Careful washing with soap and water
  • Application of over the counter antibiotic creams/ointments
  • Marking the margin of the redness with ink or marker so that increasing redness will appear “outside the lines” marked earlier

Contact your physician early if the infection is spreading or not responding to first aid treatment.

By Dana Benson

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