Why You Might Get A Cold Right After Your First Tattoo

Photographed By Lauren Perlstein.
The first time you get a tattoo, you're probably too busy worrying about how much it'll hurt in the moment to even consider how you'll feel afterward. But getting inked can have some surprising total-body effects, according to new research.

The study, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, suggests that the stress from being tattooed leaves your immune system in a weakened state — but, if you continue to get tattoos, your body's tolerance for stress may increase, making you less prone to post-tattoo illnesses.

Researchers took saliva samples from 29 customers at local tattoo shops, before and after they were tattooed. They analyzed the levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody, and cortisol, a stress hormone, in the samples to see how the tattooing process affected their immune systems. A major drop in antibody levels would suggest that a person's immune system was much weaker post-tattoo, and thus more vulnerable to illnesses.

As it turned out, the change in levels was much more noticeable among people with fewer tattoos. Meanwhile, the decrease in antibodies was smaller among people with more tattoos, which suggests that their bodies had grown more accustomed to dealing with this kind of stress.

“They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you,” the study's lead author Christopher Lynn, PhD, explained in a press release. “It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo.”

However, just as you get stronger with more exercise, the more ink you get, the more resilient you become to this phenomenon. “If you continue to stress your body over and over again, instead of returning to the same set point, it adjusts its internal set points and moves higher,” Dr. Lynn added.

If you're thinking of getting your first tattoo, pay attention to how your body responds in the following days. It might be a good idea to rest and eat your greens, so you don't stress your immune system anymore. You should always feel prepared leading up to your appointment — and that might mean stocking up on tissues, just in case.

And for you tattoo experts out there? Well, this study suggests you're just as tough as you look.

More from Body

On principle, I am skeptical of any internet health recommendation that has the word “challenge” tacked on to the end of it. These wellness fads come and...
Although he had been dead for decades, Jim Morrison said something a few years ago that shocked people. He wasn’t speaking from beyond the grave, but in ...
In April, I ran a story called “The Medium-Sized Woman Problem.” The “problem,” of course, was not the women themselves, but the way in which we frame ...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
Jill Krause writes about all things mom, parenting, and relationships at her blog, Baby Rabies, and she has some words of advice for the non-pregnant ...
Let me introduce you all to the love of my life, Sienna Harper Gernon! I've never felt love like it! @justchrisgernon thank you so much, you have been...
Ragazzi mi state seguendo in tanti e vorrei ringraziarvi e scusarmi se non riesco a rispondere a tutti...vi proprio ho una foto che mi ricorda tutte ...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
Update: Kopp's original Facebook post has been removed, and, as Shape reports, the chances of contracting an infection so severe that draining is ...
Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for both mother and baby, but it doesn't always come as naturally as we might assume. And, as one viral photo shows, ...
Last week, Kelly Stanley was breast-feeding her 9-month-old baby during dinner when someone else at her table decided to grab a cloth napkin and try to ...
Periods may be annoying, but at least they're predictable — sort of. If yours is a little delayed this cycle, and you're not trying to get pregnant right ...
It sustains life. It boosts immunity. It may or may not taste like the milk left over from a bowl of Lucky Charms. (Full disclosure: I sampled mine just ...
Gina Rodriguez is the master of keeping it real. She's been open about everything from losing her virginity to coping with thyroid disease, so it makes ...