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How to Treat a Tattoo Infection

Red and painful infection.

Red and painful infection.

Tattoo Infection is Not Hard to Treat

So, you got a tattoo! Whether this is your first, or if you have several, each time you get a new one it's a different experience. A lot of times it will heal just fine with no problems. While other times, you can get an infection.

If it is your first, it can be a little scary if it gets infected. For one, you're not for sure what to expect, and when some of the symptoms start, you don't know if it's part of the normal healing process.

First of all, don't worry. It's not hard to treat a tattoo infection. You want to catch it as soon as possible though. Don't wait until your tattoo is oozing or bubbly.

A really bad infection.

A really bad infection.

Signs and Symptoms

  • The first sign is redness. A little bit around your tattoo that is a light red is normal for the first day. After the first day, most of the redness should be gone and your tattoo should have started scabbing.
  • Along with the red around your tattoo, it will also feel hot when you touch it.
  • If your tattoo gets raised, bubbly looking, bright red, and you feel a shooting or constant pain that feels like it's in your leg itself, these are all signs of a more progressed infection.
Early signs of a tattoo infection.

Early signs of a tattoo infection.

Treatment

Once you become aware of the fact you have a tattoo infection, it needs to be treated right away.

  1. Get a paper towel and dip it in peroxide.
  2. Squeeze out all the excess and lay it flat onto your tattoo. Leave it there for several minutes.
  3. Repeat several times a day.

That's it, a very easy solution ! If your infection is severe, you should talk to your doctor or go to an emergency room. You may need antibiotics because the infection can get into your blood stream.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Sunchild on November 07, 2017:

Some advice for everyone- my tattoo got severely infected after 24 hours. I had the original wrap on it and had carefully washed it once. How this happened? Not sure. My gut feeling is it was not my doing. It rapidly turned into sepsis which can kill you, infection in the blood. If you feel swollen redness extreme soreness and discolouration see a doctor immediately. I have been on IV all week. I am just hoping it heals ok considering it's a giant scab right now. Should I be putting topical ointment on or let it dry out? I want to ensure the tattoo stays as in tact as possible

RT on August 25, 2017:

Interesting, I have a fresh tat that is starting to show signs of infection so I'm reading as much as I can on what to do. I was considering using peroxide but everywhere I've read says peroxide is one of the worst things you can put on a new tattoo. i read it's common for people to tattoo old tattoos they don't want anymore with peroxide in the tattoo gun as it will have a similar effect as laser removal and take off the tattoo. I do like your idea of just slightly covering the outside surface. That seems like a safe bet but I'm still not going to risk it. Thanks for the article.

Terry on July 01, 2017:

Just be very careful using anything on a new tattoo. I used pure vitamin e oil 2 days after my newest tattoo and it caused a huge infection. I towel patted it dry washed it with non scented soap and water then dry healed it and it worked fine.

Stacey roam on May 15, 2017:

I just got new tattoo yesterday morning its sore red really swollen blistering it on my lower arm my hands going numb my glades looked bruised on my neck

Lindamay on March 17, 2017:

Tattoo has been sore for two days,is that normal? This is my third cover up. What should I do

Wendy Robison on January 01, 2017:

I got a wrist tattoo a few minths ago and noticed it getting red and sore after a few days. I used your peroxide care and it healed nicely but I am noticing some color lose. Does this happen in infected tattoos?

anon on December 18, 2016:

I got a(nother) hand tattoo 3 days ago. The first night I had a good bandage on while I slept. The second night I did not, and it came off in my sleep. The new tattoo rubbed against things, I may have even scratched it in my sleep and yesterday I woke up and there was a red bump on the tattoo, very painful. (no red lines radiating from it which would indicate blood poisioning, and no fluids leaking from it) I'm using polysporin complete and a peroxide compress (which is relieving)

I got another tatt the same day (ankle) which is healing fine.

Be VERY careful with hand tattoos, especially when you sleep- bandage them well so they don't rub against anything/get scratched/infected!

I am hoping it gets better and I don't have to go see a doctor (embarassment! & "you shouldn't get hand tattoos, see what could happen") ughh

I am definately getting more hand tattoos, I am making sure they are bandaged well before I go to sleep!!

Kelsey on December 17, 2016:

I've had my tattoo on my foot for a little over 2 days now, and my foot is extremely swollen to the point where it looks like I don't have an ankle. It did go down a little from yesterday, however today it is warm to the touch. I have been walking on it for work however so I feel like that is a big reason. Yesterday at work it started oozing a clear-yellow liquid which i cleaned off and once I got home it stopped. My artist said to keep cleaning it and ONLY clean it and it would be fine but I'm still worried I might have a minor infection. The redness has also almost completely gone away. Would love to hear your thoughts

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on December 16, 2016:

Itching isn't a symptom of a tattoo infection. Every tattoo itches while it's healing.

Luna Wheeler on November 01, 2016:

ok found out I have an infected tattoo. and I've been on meds and I've been on them fo about a week.. and now I have Pain only when um standing still. as soon as I start walking it go's away. also I know iching is a big part of the infection but it was not one of my symptoms. but sence yesterday it's been iching like crazy. is this normal? also it looks WAY better then it did when I started the meds.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on October 21, 2016:

About a week.

Kristina on September 25, 2016:

When does the tattoo start to itch?

Oscar on July 31, 2016:

I got tatto. 4 days ago. Over vericose vain. And i think. got infected. Hurts. every. Time when. I walk.

Gemma on July 12, 2016:

So I got a massive tattoo on my thigh 3 days ago. This is my 33rd tattoo and I've taken care of them all the same way. I noticed that when I wrapped the tattoo back up (so it didn't stick to my clothes) it would seep through the cling film/tape and onto my leggings. I would clean it, make sure it was dry and then literally a minute later it would be weeping again. Also it was difficult to walk and very painful and swollen. The night after I got the tattoo I was very shaky with a fever and barely got any sleep due to the pain from the tattoo. Got antibiotics at the Drs for it. I'm concerned how the tattoo is going to turn out, it cost me £400 and is the only tattoo I've gotten that has done this! I'm so confused though as the only thing I could've done wrong was wrap it in cling film, making it moist enough for bacteria to grow. However I've wrapped all my other tattoos this way.

Gabi on May 07, 2016:

Hi I got my tattoo done on Friday. I've just noticed some green lumps and when I put my fisted down they leak does this mean I've got an infection ? If so what should I do xx

randy khalaf on April 11, 2016:

Proper cleaning treatment after getting a new tattoo and being cautious in everyday activities can prevent infection and other complications, get tats from someone clean and experienced, just because someone bought a tat machine online donsnt make them a professional, be weary and cautious and pay attention to everything the artist does, cleanliness is key

jerry on April 09, 2016:

I am letting it air dry sorry.. Should i put anything on it or just keep it dry

jerry on April 09, 2016:

Just got a tattoo 5 days ago started with the Aquaphor for two days then switch to the Lubriderm lotion not experiencing pain redness or swelling that went away but today while getting in the shower some of the scabs had a little bit of pus in them am I using too much lotion about 3 times a day maybe for I just did your peroxide trick and I'm not letting it air-dry should I put anything on it

jimbo on June 01, 2015:

I got a tatto three days ago its still sore swollen n ive got a lot of little white heads all over tha tatoo n its very hot do u think its an infection?

David on April 26, 2015:

I just caught my infection yesterday, barely starting. I washed off the entire tattoo with dial non scented soap then let dry out and put A&D on it. I put it on about 3 times yesterday line layering. I did wash off the tattoo this morning and put more A&D on it, but it seems to be getting worse.

Should I try washing it off again letting it dry and doing the peroxide and then adding the A&D?

vic on February 12, 2015:

Got a tattoo a year ago I thought it

Would go down it hasn't Im scared its red ink helpp

Lisa on January 28, 2015:

my tattoo I got about 8 months ago puffed up about 2 months ago only on the red and hurts if i rub or touch it how do i fix this

dulceteller on January 09, 2015:

I got my tattoo last Tuesday and I been trying my best to keep it Clean but now half of my tattoo has bumps on it even on the actual tattoo and around it o been using lubriderm on it and it dosent seem to get better this was my first tattoo what do I do I'm scared should I go to the ER

gerry on April 14, 2014:

I got a tattoo like 3months ago an I have lil Red bumps around my tattoo on my forearm my doctors said I DNT have hep c an it won't go away WHAT'S can I use help me

James on March 24, 2014:

Got a tattoo on my forearm about 2 days ago and it looks good but it's red around the tat and a little tender. Not sure if it's infected our what just don't know if it's normal healing soreness or redness

felicia on January 13, 2014:

How long after the peroxide treatment will the infection go away and i just have small bumps that itch like crazy through out my tattoo

foster on December 03, 2013:

I got a hand tat about 3 days ago. Its about 2 inch above my wrist to my knuckles. I'm not sure if ots infected or if dude was just to rough or hand tats get red and sore alittle longer. Bub its red and only my hand to my knuckles ans swollen but it hurts like a bitch. And don't want it fucking up because it is a very nice looking tat. Its my 7 th tat nexter had this problem. Oh yea hurts more pointing down

Stephanie on November 04, 2013:

my girlfriend and I got some tattoos at a guys house over a month ago. Mine has a few scabbed red bumps on each still and hers is completely bumpy and dry scabs all over, her ink also is not black like it should be. About a week ago, on the same day, we both started complaining about out underarms being sore and now both of us have been in constant pain. We both have a swollen knot in our underarms...I am assuming it is our lymph nodes. What should we do, we are getting scared!

Dev on October 12, 2013:

I got a new tattoo 5 days ago and today there was many white pimples surrounding a portion of the tattoo. There is no Redness around the actual tattoo besides the pimples. Could this possibly be because of the shaving? Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.

esjay on October 08, 2013:

For my tattoo 4 days ago but started puttin ointment today since I noticed some bumps that hurt but no puss comes out? What could it be?

mandy on October 04, 2013:

I had a tattoo about 2 mths ago on my wrist everything was fine no problems now it feels like its prickley and its tingley what can that be

Jessica on September 25, 2013:

I just got a tattoo on my wrist an it is puffy an sore what can I do i did what u said an it looks white a puffy an nasty

Brit on September 23, 2013:

I got a tattoo last night it's red raised up and sore is this ok?? It's my first tattoo I'm scared

jaz on September 08, 2013:

Also it doesn't hurt is a bit itchy but my other tattoo got itchy

jaz on September 08, 2013:

I got my tattoo 6 day ago it all good but theres one spot that is light red and so puss is coming out does that mean I have an infection

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on September 07, 2013:

It could be part of the infection, I would take the antibiotics and see if that help.

Dawn on September 06, 2013:

I have just been to see the out of hours doctor he said my tattoo is infected and he give me antbiotics as it was in pain and red but I am starting to get pains in the back. Of my leg is that anyway connected do you no

jessica on July 17, 2013:

Hey, I got a tattoo, about 3 days ago,its my forth one. I'm experiencing what seems like an infection, with small blisters. I waited a day and the blisters have turned into hard scabs unlike regular tattoo scabbing. Is this the tattoo healing? Or is it getting worse? Will the peroxise method still work?

keshia on June 27, 2013:

I got a tattoo about 3 to 4 weeks ago and now it has little fine red bumps on it. It itches really bad and now its puffy. Help what to do

pooh on June 14, 2013:

i got my tattoo 6 days ago and it got infected..this is my first tattoo..now its scabby and puss ! so i went to a doctor she gave me antibiotics and asked me to clean it 3 times a day with potassium permanganate and apply very thin layer of antibacterial cream does it work and is it safe??

amandak1234567 on June 13, 2013:

Do u suggest washing off any remaining a&d begore using tg e peroxide paper towel?

dmccarthy2821 on May 26, 2013:

I have an infected tattoo that is now healing, and I was wondering if it was ok to get it covered up once it has healed. I've only had it for nine days.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on May 25, 2013:

It should only take 2-3 days.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on May 25, 2013:

Part of the healing process of a tattoo is getting a scab, and getting itchy. Putting an antibiotic cream is ok if put really thin for a short period of time, and then you want to wash it off with antibacteria soap. Do not put lotion on it, to heal and not become a breeding ground for bacteria, it needs to breathe. Wash several times a day with the antibacterial soap, and just leave it the rest of the time. No, I've never heard of pushing the ink out as you decribed. The only way to get the ink out of your skin is by getting your tattoo removed.

how long does it take to heal while treating it with peroxide? on May 15, 2013:

My tattoos turned pink and we're very painful. How many days does it take using the peroxide method to help clear up the symptoms?

beekeeper on May 14, 2013:

I got my first tattoo 8 days ago. I thought it was maybe getting infected on the fourth day, so I went to the doctor. He gave me antibiotics and antibiotic cream. Told me to wash it 3x a day and put the antibiotic cream on after and lotion it the rest of the time. Once an hour or whenever I thought of it. It does not seem to be doing better. The spot where orange was used has a scab and it's gotten really itchy. I'm not sure if it's still infected or if I'm allergic to the ink :( I read where you can have the tattooer tattoo where the offending color is with a plain needle or with saline so that your body can get rid of/push the ink out. Have you heard of this and does it work and is it safe? Thanks for any help :)

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on April 26, 2013:

You shouldn't be having a reaction 6 months after getting a tattoo, I would seek medical attention.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on April 26, 2013:

Yes, it sounds like it could be.

Aabhash Pradhan on March 26, 2013:

i had my tattoo around 6 mnths ago in my fore arm and i had no problem but now since sround two weeks i m having some rashes or sumthing like bubble is it some kind of infection?????

Newtatswollen on March 24, 2013:

I just got a tattoo done on my arm about 7inches above my elbow, and it started with redness around the tat then a little bit of swelling now the swelling is almost past my elbow. I'm freaking ouy now since it's been the 3rd day. Could this be a possible infection?

Will on March 12, 2013:

Yea... i got a tat on the outside of my left leg... its not doing good... i was always told that petroleum jelly was good for a tat... but i wasn't told not to glob it on. Now my skin is coming off in some parts of the tat and its red as hell. im trying the peroxide thing right now.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on March 11, 2013:

It can take a couple weeks for the soreness to fully go away. Just keep using the A&D in a thin layer twice a day.

laura on March 11, 2013:

Add Your Commenit...i got a tattoo on thursday is a picture of my son that died it turnd out awesom ive use an equate triple antibotic on it it seem to be healing but is still sore so i switched to a&d ointment should that be ok i just want the soreness to go away

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on February 17, 2013:

It sounds like the beginning of an infection. Saturate paper towel in peroxide and squeeze out the excess, lay it over your tattoo for a few minutes. Do this 3-4 times a day. Apply A&D ointment twice a day in a very thin layer. If it gets worse, call your Dr. or go to the ER.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on February 17, 2013:

Only put A&D once or twice a day in a very thin layer. Your tattoo needs air to heal. I would do the peroxide 3-4 times a day. If it doesn't get better, I would call your Dr. or go to the ER.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on February 17, 2013:

Call your Dr. or go to the ER.

Scott on February 12, 2013:

I got a tattoo on the inside of fore arm 5 days ago and the is redness around the letters of tattoo it's still sore to touch no bubbling or puss would this be an infection and what do I do please help

Brwecka on January 15, 2013:

I got my 5th tattoo 4 days ago and I'm noticing a little bit of bubbling and what looks like streaks of puss I would say but under a layer of skin that's healing already. I'm so confused, I just tried the peroxide for the first time but do I still do the a&d? If so how often do I do both and do I put the ointment on right after the peroxide? And could I use bacitracin? Please help! I'm getting anxiety over this already!

Schartaylor on January 13, 2013:

I got a tattoo about 3 months ago. I bought a lotion from the artist and used it as I was suppose to. Approx. 1 week after tattoo I got 4 bumps on it. It looks like a big knot of dry skin. I have put everything I can think of on it. What could these bumps be? Anyone have any idea?

lady34 on January 09, 2013:

well I had my tatoo two months ago and it got badly infected to the extend that it has chage to a big sore, i have been taking some treatment,but it just keep coming back. caqn you advise

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on January 05, 2013:

I would go back to the ER. You should have no oozing, and the reddness should be well gone after almost two week since you got your tat.

mrs malone on December 30, 2012:

Well I have had this tattoo since a week ago wed soon to b 2 weeks ago and after 4 days I finally went to er and got antibiotics. I was trying peroxide and it made it worse. I've tried colloidal silver spray a and d ointment tripple antibiotic ointment even a first aid antibiotic cream also alcohol. My right bottom calf inside. Its still red started oozing and everything. Is this healing or what else should I try. Antibiotics are almost done. Need help plz I'm pretty scared.

elisa on October 04, 2012:

I have my tattoo over a week now which is at the bottom left side of my calf - the scab is off but the tattoo is quite sore and swolen and feels quite hot. Should i take an antiinflamatory?

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on August 29, 2012:

Look in the baby section, it is usually by the diaper rash creams. You can find it at department stores, drug stores, even grocery stores. At Dollar Stores, they carry a generic for just a couple bucks. You can ask somebody if they have it, because most places do carry A&D ointment.

Ashley on August 29, 2012:

Tattoo goo or straight vitamin E oil should help :)

Nikke84 on August 25, 2012:

I cannot find a&d anywhere, what else can i use? I got a tattoo 4 days ago and it is red and swollen and i am pretty sure starting an infection. I have to admit, I used a few different lotions on it and I am pretty sure I caused the infection. So if I do the peroxide, what can i put on instead of a&d.....please help!!

jean on July 09, 2012:

thanks for your advice on the peroxide and wet towel treatment it took the pain and cleaned it up. I also put A and D. thanks again did not want to take antibiotics but was scared.

Katie Dafoe on June 29, 2012:

I have a tattoo that got infected, thank god, i noticed and went back to the artist for an opinion. Thank god the only reason it got infected was because i used poly after the tattoo was healing, so it made it moist. After it got moist my friends kept touching it. The young man that did my tattoo is going to do a touch up, after that no one except the artist and myself is allowed near it. I am not getting another infection, i learned my lesson the first time

j on June 27, 2012:

big thanks ...

cesar on May 29, 2012:

Thanks for the info it helped out

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on April 24, 2012:

I'm so happy to hear it !

Boricuabby on April 22, 2012:

Thanks DeborahFantasia your site helped me my tattoo is getting better :)

Lovely on April 14, 2012:

I Did My Tattoo Myself And It Has Gotten Infested, Your Site Helped A lot! Thanks(:

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on March 21, 2012:

I had a tattoo infection one time and used peroxide as I stated how to above, and it worked and it did not pull up the ink. I still used the A&D so it did not dry out.

Jess on January 26, 2012:

I've been told by many tattoo artists and doctors that using peroxide on new tattoos is a big "no-no". Peroxide uses the tiny bubbles to pull the infection to the surface so it can be killed, but it will pull the ink from your tattoo with it. Also, peroxide drys your skin terribly and can even destroy the top layers of the tattoo on your skin.

DeborahFantasia (author) from Italy on June 25, 2011:

Thanks, infections don't happen to often but as long as they're caught early on and taken care of it usually not a problem.

princesswithapen on June 24, 2011:

Gee that's nasty! I wonder if infections happen often?

Useful hub,Deborah.

P