McKnight Pediatrics


Body Art

Tattoos and Body Piercings

Tattoos and body piercings can cause medical problems. They can lead to infections, some mild, some severe. You can contract infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C from getting a tattoo. This can occur if the needles that are used are not cleaned and disinfected properly between each use. If the needles are not cleaned well, blood from the people who got a tattoo before you can be injected under your skin and cause you to get an infection. It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to tattoo dye. If you have a tattoo and have an MRI, you might experience pain or burning because sometimes the dyes contain metals that could heat up or move around during the test.

Body piercings can cause infections of the skin or deeper muscles at the site of the piercing or surrounding areas. Piercings of the tongue or lip can cause dental problems. If you are considering a tattoo or body piercing, we encourage you to first discuss it with your parent.

Things you can do to reduce the risks of tattoos and piercings:
-Be certain you are fully immunized against Hepatitis B. There is no vaccine against Hepatitis C.
-Make sure the person washes their hands in soapy water and wears new disposable gloves
-Make sure they use sterile water, not tap water to rinse the equipment
-Make sure they wipe the area to be tattooed or pierced with alcohol or iodine
-Make sure they use sterile (individually packaged) needles that are opened while you can see them

After getting a tattoo or piercing:
-Keep the involved area clean using soap and water to clean it everyday
-Don't touch the area at other times until it heals
-Don't use the solutions that are sold at shopping malls to clean piercings. These solutions are not good at getting rid of bacteria and often can be contaminated with bacteria. Soap and water are better.

You should seek medical attention if the body part that was tattooed or pierced develops redness, pain, swelling, feels hot or starts oozing pus. You should also seek medical attention if you get a fever.