Tattoos can be awesome ways for people to express themselves, decorate their bodies, and memorialize things and people that are meaningful to them. They can also be risky. That's why new FDA tattoo guidelines are warning people considering getting inked about the potential safety hazards, Allure reports.
A newly updated page on the administration's website lists some of the biggest risks of getting a tattoo and offers advice on how to avoid them from Dr. Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors. Not to freak anyone out, but they've gotten 363 reports of negative reactions to tattoos between 2014 and 2016. That's a small minority of tattoo owners, but still enough to warrant more thoughtful inking.
One obvious issue you need to look out for is unsterile equipment. Make sure the tattoo parlor looks clean and the artist is using different needles for each client and diluting pigments with sterile water. And since ink can be made with some questionable ingredients and polluted with mold or bacteria, ask your artist where they've gotten it. Ink is not FDA-regulated, and some of it's made with pigments found in car paint and printer toner.
A mild tattoo infection can lead to rashes and fever, and a more severe one can lead to scarier symptoms like "high fever, shaking, chills, and sweats," according to the guidelines. These issues may show up right after you get a tattoo, but they could pop up years down the line. If you notice any of these signs after getting a tattoo, talk to a doctor ASAP. And bring the issue up with the tattoo parlor so they can identify what caused it.
Some people can also be allergic to ingredients in tattoo ink. To make sure nothing you're allergic to is about to go in your skin, tell your tattoo artist about any allergies you have. Since many reports of tattoo infections and allergic reactions come from users of DIY kits, you're best off avoiding those altogether and heading to a reputable salon.
The page also offers a tip for after you've gotten inked: If you ever get an MRI, tell the technician about your tattoo beforehand. Occasionally, people with tattoos experience burning or swelling during MRIs, though the problem's usually mild and short-lived.
If you keep all these things in mind, the chances of a tattoo-related injury or illness are pretty low. But you should know going in that getting a tattoo will always involve some risk. It's just up to you to decide if it's worth it.