Infection From Tattoos: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation

Overview

An infected tattoo can be serious. The area around your tattoo may be painful, swollen, red, and hot. You may see red streaks or pus at the tattoo site. You may have a fever. Or you may have swollen or tender lymph nodes.

It's important to take good care of your infection at home so it doesn't get worse.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Or if your doctor prescribed an antibiotic ointment, apply it as directed.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your infected tattoo, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the tattoo with a mild soap and water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • Gently pat the tattoo dry after you wash it.
    • You may cover the tattoo with a thin layer of an unscented, water-based cream or lotion and a nonstick bandage.
    • Replace the bandage as needed.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You lose feeling in the area near the tattoo, or it feels numb or tingly.
  • The skin near the tattoo turns pale or cool.
  • The tattoo starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms are getting worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N944 in the search box to learn more about "Infection From Tattoos: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.