Can You Get a Tattoo While Feeling Sick?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 19, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Imagine this: You’ve chosen the perfect tattoo, found the perfect parlor and even booked an appointment. A few days to—disaster strikes—you wake up sick. Now what? 

You may be so determined to get that tattoo you’re willing to go and power through the discomfort.

Hold your horses, before going to the parlor to get your ink, consider these three realities:

  • You may spread the infection
  • Infection compromises your ability to heal
  • Sickness may amplify the typical discomfort associated with inking

Yes, you can get a tattoo while sick, but that may not always be the right thing to do, however. If you’re contagious, you run the risk of spreading the disease—which is why most tattooists won’t have you when you’re ill.

What’s the Problem With Getting a Tattoo While Sick? 

First of all, there are no specific rules about getting a tattoo while you’re sick. There’s no law—can you imagine how hard that would be to enforce? Don’t expect every tattooist to welcome you with open arms when they see you’re sick, though—it’s a concern for them. 

It’s a surprisingly common thing—getting sick, that is. Did you know the average adult has two to three colds per year? This only considers one illness. Alternatively, you could also catch a bug or get food poisoning, which affects 48 million Americans annually. These mild illnesses may influence your inking experience.

What’s the harm in getting inked when the illness is not too bad?

You’ll Feel Rotten 

The flu’s most distinct feature is its body aches, a cold will give you a headache, and certain bugs can give you nasty stomach aches. Now, imagine dragging all that pain and discomfort into a chair and having a painful tattoo to top it all up. 

It may make everything feel worse. 

Many people, when they’re sick, don’t even like being touched because of their aches or general discomfort. Imagine getting needled! 

On top of this, when you’re uncomfortable or in pain, you’re often also fidgety and can’t concentrate. This won’t be a nice experience for your tattooist, who needs to get those lines they’re inking onto your skin, straight. 

Do you want a wonky tattoo because you couldn’t keep still? Get some rest, and go in the future, with a clear head, unless you’re absolutely confident that your illness isn’t bad enough to interfere with the inking.

Increased Risk of Infection 

Whenever you get a tattoo, you should always be on the lookout for signs of infection. As a general rule, a good tattooist should talk to you about care and maintenance.

When you’re sick, your immune system has a lot to deal with. The last thing you want to do is to throw a new and potentially dangerous infection at your already weakened immune system. 

This extra burden to your body can mean several things: your tattoo could take longer to heal, and your sickness could take longer go away. The nasty infection could win, and you may end up needing more serious treatment.

You’re Potentially Infecting Everyone Around You 

This is often something that many people simply don’t think about. Where you go, your illness goes with you. With the flu, you’re likely contagious before your symptoms even develop—it can be as soon as the first symptom manifests.

When you go to your tattoo parlor, you’re potentially spreading your disease around and infecting everyone from the tattooist to the other customers getting their ink done. Not to mention, if you’re sneezing or coughing, you could be contaminating the equipment around you. 

A good tattooist will clean up after you, but they won’t be able to prevent themselves from getting sick. 

Medication and Hypersensitivity

Acne isn’t a particularly serious disease, but its meds are cause for concern if you’re looking to get new ink. Tetracycline-based drugs, which are used to treat acne, make the skin hypersensitive. This makes for a very uncomfortable tattoo experience, not to mention an increased risk of scarring.

Some antibiotics and over-the-counter drugs have similar effects, so ask your physician if your meds are tat-safe.

Blood-thinning meds may also make it impossible for you to get the bigger and more elaborate designs, seeing as the slightest prick may bleed profusely. If you’re on any thinners, seek medical advice before visiting the tattooist.

The Bottom Line 

Getting a tattoo isn’t always the most pleasant experience. You’ll likely love the results, but the actual process can be painful. In that case, you’ll really want to be at your healthiest when getting it done, especially if you’re getting something big and time-consuming. 

The risk of infection is heightened when you’re sick, and you pose the risk of infecting those around you. For all these reasons, we recommend waiting until you feel better before you go out and get your tattoo. If you aren’t contagious and are sure you can manage the extra discomfort, however, get your ink.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​

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