What are the signs of an infected tattoo?

By | January 3, 2014

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Tattooing can be a beautiful and expressive art form. But tattooing damages the skin, which is the body’s primary defense against infection. After getting a tattoo, be alert for signs of infection, and seek medical help if necessary.


Redness is normal in a new tattoo, but after 48 hours, it should fade. If there is redness for more than two days after receiving the tattoo, see a doctor because this could be a sign of infection.

Body Tattoo

Swelling & Warmth

Swelling is also normal for a short time following a tattoo. But if swelling persists for more than two days, or if it feels warm to the touch, consult a doctor. Swelling in the armpit, groin or neck is a sign of dangerous infection. Even if your tattoo itself seems alright, but you have this kind of swelling or tenderness, consult a doctor right away.

Throbbing Pain

Serious, throbbing pain should not persist for more than 48 hours after receiving a tattoo. If it does, you may have an infection so you must see a doctor.

Red Streaks

Red streaks are another sign that you may have an infected tattoo. If you see red lines moving out from the tattoo across your skin, see a doctor as this could indicate a staff infection.


Any pus or watery discharge from your tattoo is a sign of trouble. Seek a doctor’s help if you have this symptom as the tattoo could be infected.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked clusters of potentially serious antibiotic-resistant skin infections to unlicensed tattoo artists who don’t follow proper infection-control procedures, says the Mayo Clinic. These can sometimes lead to pneumonia, blood infections and a painful, flesh-destroying condition called necrotizing fasciitis.


Mayo Clinic

McKinley University

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