Is my tattoo or piercing infected?

You recently got some skin art in the form of a new tattoo or a nose piercing. A week or so after the big day, your skin doesn’t feel quite right — and it looks a little funny, too. It may be time to see the doctor.

Up to 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo and more than 60% of Americans have had a piercing. Usually the tattoo shop will send you home with instructions on how to care for your new tattoo or piercing

But even if you follow all of the directions, your piercing or tattoo may look or feel a little off. When should you seek medical care? 

When to See Your PCP about a New Tattoo or Piercing

You may want to see your primary care provider or a dermatologist about your piercing or tattoo even if it feels fine.

Your primary care provider can offer guidance about how to support your skin’s health, which in turn can ensure your tattoo or piercing is well cared for and looks its best.

The most logical time to see a medical provider is if your skin simply doesn’t feel or look right after getting a new tattoo or piercing. 

Warning Signs of Infection

  • A skin reaction or rash. Any change in appearance surrounding the tattoo or piercing can be a sign of a problem, such as infection. In the case of a tattoo, it could mean you’re having a reaction to the ink in the tattoo.
  • Soreness, redness or itchiness. Like a rash, these signs can be indicative of an infection. If you’ve gotten a new piercing, you should also watch for pus oozing from the piercing site.
  • A fever. If you develop a fever within days after getting a new tattoo or piercing, it may be a sign of an infection. This is especially true if the fever isn’t accompanied by other signs of illness, such as a cough, sore throat or body aches.
  • A new reaction after being in the sun. If you find yourself developing an itchy rash, blisters or swelling around a tattoo after being in the sun, it’s possible you may have developed a sun allergy because of the ink in your skin. You should keep your new tattoo out of direct sunlight while it heals.
  • Signs of a skin disease. It’s possible to develop a skin condition or have an existing skin condition flare up after getting a tattoo. Psoriasis, eczema and sarcoidosis can all occur in relation to a tattoo. 

Primary Care at University Health

Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider at University Health today.

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