Despite how pervasive tattoos are these days, they’re still kind of a big deal. At the risk of sounding like your grandma, getting inked with that work of art is a procedure that can actually be quite risky, which is why it’s so important to follow tattoo guidelines to a T. As a report published earlier this month details, ignoring them can be fatal.
In a definite worst case scenario, an unidentified 31-year-old Hispanic man died after ignoring tattoo artists’ warnings not to go swimming with fresh ink, reports the Daily Mail. Five days after getting a cross tattoo on his calf, the man reportedly went for a dip in the Gulf of Mexico, where he contracted a bacterial infection. A day after exposing his ink to the ocean, he developed a fever, chills and a nasty rash near his tattoo. Despite treatment, the infection ultimately killed him. Warning: the images are graphic.
According to tattoo guidelines, you’re supposed to wait two weeks before swimming in the pool or ocean to allow the ink to heal — up until that point, your tattoo is still an open wound and needs to be cared for like one. Submerging your wound in water, which is often swimming with all different types of bacteria, can lead to some serious infections.
The bacteria in this case, was a particularly nasty flesh-eating strain called Vibrio vulnificus, according to the official report published in BMJ Case Reports, which affects the immune system and can be contracted by exposing an open wound to seawater or by eating raw shellfish. Even with aggressive treatment from doctors, a pre-existing liver condition made the man more susceptible to developing sepsis from the infection and he ultimately died two months after entering the hospital.
While this case is a scary outlier, it serves as major warning to pay attention to those guidelines — they aren’t just there to make grandma feel better about your tat. After getting inked, take it seriously and do as the experts say. Wait at least two weeks before submerging the area in water (that means holding off on trying your fancy new bath bomb, too) and keep the area clean.
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