Tattoo Ink Poisoning Symptoms

Skin tattooing has been around for centuries. In fact, it has been practiced since long before humans recorded history. Most ancient evidence of tattooing was found on a mummy called “Iceman” who is said to have perished somewhere around the time of 3200 BC. Today, tattooing is a very popular and trendy practice. Just the same, it remains a subject of controversy in terms of health hazards and tattoo ink poisoning. It seems that no matter how sophisticated tattoo technology becomes, there are still many who believe it to be a dangerous practice. There has been much controversy around the topic of tattoo ink poisoning and whether or not it is possible. Supporters of tattooing claim that it is impossible to become poisoned from tattoo ink as it never really reaches the bloodstream. However, those who oppose disagree. Some of the following information may help clear up some of the issues surrounding tattoo ink and the likelihood of being poisoned as a result.

Is it Poisoning or an Allergic Reaction?

The first question a person experiencing some sort of reaction to a tattoo should ask is whether they are having symptoms of poisoning or simply an allergic reaction. The best way to discover if you are allergic to tattooing ink is to have yourself tested prior to having a tattoo done. The way this works is that the tattoo artist takes a Q-tip and smears just a tiny bit of the different colors he/she will be using on you to the skin located under your arm. If you are in fact allergic to the ink, a reaction will begin to show within several minutes. Unfortunately, most people fail to do this quick and easy test so they have no idea whether or not they will have a reaction. Some people who have sensitive skin will simply develop irritation at the tattoo site that has nothing to do with the ink. In some rare cases it is possible to have a severe reaction. Another thing many people do not realize is that when there is a moderate to severe allergy to the ink, the skin will automatically reject the ink, resulting in a lack of color on the tattoo.

Not Enough Information on the Ink Used for Tattoos

The problem with knowing whether or not tattoo ink can actually cause poisoning is that there is very little published information for the public to read about the ink is being used. There are currently no tattoo inks that have been approved by the FDA, this makes it a gamble to say the least. Most of the time, people suffering from some sort of reaction to tattoo ink develop these reactions to the more vibrant colors such as red, blue, orange and yellow. A reaction to black ink is quite rare. In order to know whether or not you will have a severe reaction to the ink, it is also very good idea to have a patch test done. Locate an area of skin that will be concealed and asked the tattoo artist to do a very small spot to see whether or not a reaction occurs. This is one of the best ways to avoid a wide scale problem. If you do develop a reaction, you can only imagine how much worse it would have been had you had a very large portion of your body tattoo using that ink.

Common Skin Reactions to Tattoo Ink

Because different types of tattoo ink as well as different colors have a variety of chemical compositions, there is no telling whether or not you may develop some sort of reaction to any of them. If you do develop a reaction the most common will be dermatitis. Dermatitis causes inflammation, rashes and swelling around the site. Keep in mind that many other factors may play a role in a reaction like this. It may not be the ink and all that is causing the problem but perhaps just the trauma of getting the tattoo. As most people who have had tattoos are aware, it can be a very painful and traumatic experience. You must think of a tattoo as an injury and realize that with any injury irritation can ensue.

Bacterial Infection of the Result of a Tattoo

One thing you should be on the lookout for after getting a tattoo is any swelling, tenderness or pain that is accompanied by drainage of a pus like substance. This could very easily be a sign of a local bacterial infection. Infection can occur as a result of the needle which has pierced your skin, especially if the tattoo artist did not practice proper sanitation. If you suspect that you have developed an infection as a result of getting a tattoo, you should seek medical attention right away that this could be something as serious as a staph infection. However, remember that you will have slightly red and uncomfortable skin directly after having your tattoo done. A little bit of redness and soreness is quite normal.

The best way to protect yourself from any undesirable reactions to getting a tattoo is to make sure you research the person well who will be giving you the tattoo. Make sure that the tattoo artist adheres to strict sanitation guidelines and that a brand-new and sterile needle is used. Keep in mind that there is always the risk of contracting a serious illness such as HIV or Hepatitis C if a careless tattoo artist should use the same needle on you that he/she used on infected person. This information is not meant to frighten anyone or cause them to change their mind about getting a tattoo. It is simply meant to educate you on some of the things you want to observe when making the decision to have a tattoo done. It is always best to have your tattoo done by a reputable tattoo artist who is well known for performing quality work in a clean and sanitary environment.


  1. In an article about poison symptoms, not one symptom is discussed.

    That's a serious flaw in an article.

  2. My son has had surgery because his left arm was heavily tattooed and the ink poison spread. He had to have his nerve relocated and now it has affected his right arm. He is in constant pain; the left arm surgery was never totally successful' he is on medication and the only option is surgery.

    I believe most people never consider how much they will use the muscles in their tattooed arms. Doing vigorous work such as car sanding, grinding, painting, will cause the dye to migrate faster and do more harm. The work done is indefensible as my son has brain damage.

    1. Hey is there any way we can talk? I need some answers about something similar I am going through, thanks.

  3. Very informative 🙂

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