Tattoo Infections: Why They Happen and Who Might Be Liable If You’re Injured

More than a third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. People young and old visit tattoo parlors for many reasons. It can be a means of self-expression, a way to participate in cultural or religious traditions, or simply a last-minute decision. 

Whatever the motive, tattoos can be beautiful, meaningful, and fun. But they can also be risky. 

Fortunately, infection is not overly common; between .5% and 6% of people experience a complication after they get a tattoo. But an infection can be painful, dangerous, and scary.

In this post, learn more about tattoo infections, why they happen, and what you can do if you’ve developed an infection after getting a tattoo.

What Causes a Tattoo Infection?

Getting a new tattoo should be an exciting time. Usually, it happens after months of thought, planning, and anticipation. 

Some discomfort or pain is normal after a tattoo. But an infection can take these symptoms to the next level. 

Bacterial infections are usually the result of dirty needles. If the instrument is improperly cleaned or sterilized, bacteria can quickly spread. 

An infection can also occur when an inexperienced or careless technician fails to do the following:

  • Wash their hands before applying the tattoo
  • Wear sterilized gloves during the application
  • Clean the skin where the tattoo is to be applied

Any one of these scenarios can increase your risk of infection. You are also more vulnerable if you fail to properly care for the tattoo site in the days after it’s applied.

Aftercare for a tattoo is an involved process. Usually, it’s recommended that you keep a bandage on the site for the first 24 hours. Then, you should gently wash the area and pat it dry. Finally, you should continue to wash and treat the site with vaseline ointment for several days. 

What Are the Symptoms and Risks of Infection?

While pain and discomfort are normal side-effects of a new tattoo, more serious symptoms to watch for include:


Some swelling is normal. But if your skin becomes excessively puffy, distorted, and inflamed, it could be cause for concern. If the swelling expands far beyond the outline of the tattoo, seek medical care.


Fever is the number one symptom of infection. If you have recently received a tattoo and have a fever of over 100 degrees, call your doctor right away. 


As your skin heals, you might notice small amounts of clear liquid mixed with drops of blood. This is normal. What’s not normal is a discharge of green or yellow pus or excessive blood. 

You should also be concerned if you notice a foul odor emanating from the tattoo site. 

Swollen Lymph Nodes

A staph infection can lead to sepsis. If you notice that the lymph nodes close to the tattoo area have become swollen, visit your nearest emergency room right away. 

Discolored Streaks

Discolored streaks leading away from the tattoo site are an indication of blood poisoning, another form of sepsis. This condition should always be treated as an emergency.

A mild infection is no cause for alarm. However, it should always be treated promptly. Infections can turn into more deadly conditions without proper treatment. 

Who Is Liable for a Serious Tattoo Injury?

A qualified personal injury attorney can help you to identify any parties who might be liable for your injuries. If a tattoo parlor or technician failed to perform proper sanitization on their equipment, you may be able to pursue economic and non-economic damages through a negligence case.

For more information, call one of our convenient locations nearest you for assistance.

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York, PA law office at (717) 995-8998

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