If you’re going to get inked, do it without risking your health.
Story: Joy Stephenson-Laws
If you are a parent, you may not want your child to get visible tattoos out of fear your child may look unprofessional or regret making a permanent body change. However, the real concern is much deeper than physical appearance or having regrets in life.
If done properly, tattoos completed with clean needles in licensed establishments are usually safe. On the other hand, people who receive tattoos need to be especially mindful of what
they do after they exit the tattoo parlor.
Recently, a 31-year-old man with a 5-day-old leg tattoo took a swim in the Gulf of Mexico and died. Three days after he went for his swim, he was admitted to a Dallas hospital with severe pain in both his legs and feet. He reportedly also had a fever, chills, and redness around the location of his tattoo and other areas of his legs.
Shortly after that, things took a turn for the worse. Fluid started to collect in the man’s legs, and he had bad bruising along with more skin discoloration.
Doctors said he was in the beginning stages of sepsis, and his kidneys “already had some injury.” Within 12 hours, he went from the early to late stages of sepsis (septic shock), which is typical timing for this type of condition.
Taking care of your tattoo just after getting it is vital. Remember these tips:
- Keep the dressing on for several hours.
- Don’t go swimming or immerse your body in water. Showers are fine.
- Wash your hands, then carefully wash the tattoo with fragrance-free soap daily.
- Let scabs form and fall off. Don’t pick them off.
Sepsis occurs when the body has extreme difficulty fighting off an infection, whether it’s bacterial, viral, or fungal. Sepsis can lead to tissue damage and organ failure. When sepsis occurs, your body’s immune system is essentially working overtime, releasing chemicals in the body that can cause widespread inflammation.
This particular incident of sepsis is unique but something we all need to be mindful of, because this man’s death possibly could have been avoided if he had followed the proper precautions after getting his tattoo.
His tattoo was still in the healing stages (at 5 days old), and swimming, especially in water as polluted as the Gulf of Mexico, should have absolutely been avoided. A tattoo is essentially a wound until it heals. Although a person voluntarily gets a tattoo, it still causes trauma due to multiple pricks on the skin from a needle. A tattoo needs to be treated like a wound. New tattoos should not even be soaked in clean bath water. You need to wait at least two full weeks until you swim with a new tattoo.
The man was infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a type of bacteria mostly found in coastal ocean water. He was put on very strong antibiotics and a breathing machine but, unfortunately, lost the battle after fighting for more than a month.
It was not the bacteria that ultimately caused his death but the sepsis and shock his body went into from trying to fight off the bacteria. If his tattoo had healed before he went swimming, the bacteria would have been less likely to infect his body, since he would not have been swimming with an open wound (he had no other open wounds or cuts on his body).
On top of that, this particular patient already had a compromised immune system due to chronic liver disease from drinking excessively. The story reports he drank six 12-ounce beers daily.
People with weakened immune systems have a higher chance of going into septic shock. It is critical we have the right balance of vitamins and minerals to keep our immune systems in top shape and performing as well as possible in order to fight off infections and inflammation. Also keep in mind, excessive alcohol consumption can deplete essential vitamins and minerals from the body
Here are a few minerals that can help with your immunity:
There is a reason why you have probably seen zinc lozenges in the cold and flu aisle of your local drugstore. Zinc is important for a healthy immune system, as it can help you get sick less often or get well quicker. Oysters are the highest source of zinc. You also can get zinc from red meat, poultry, crabs, shrimp, lobster, oatmeal, whole grains, cheeses, yogurt, beans, and nuts.
Some studies have shown this mineral has anti-cancer benefits because of its antioxidant properties. This mineral also is believed to have anti-infection benefits. Dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, oysters, whole grains, and meats.
One study suggests copper doorknobs may protect patients from germs in hospitals. Not only do copper surfaces possibly have powerful disease-fighting properties, but copper also is something we all should have in our diets to help boost our immunity. Organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, and whole grain products are good sources of copper.
The National Institutes of Health reports iron is “a nutrient that is essential for both microbial pathogens and their mammalian hosts, on the course of infectious disease. Our studies indicate that alterations in the expression of host molecules that sequester, or transport iron can have direct effects on pathogen growth and can also have an impact on the ability to mount normal immune responses.” There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Lean meat and seafood are rich in heme iron. This is more bioavailable, meaning your body can use it better. Non-heme iron is found in nuts, grains, vegetables, and other fortified products.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joy Stephenson-Laws is the founder of Proactive Health Labs (phlabs.org), a national nonprofit health information company that provides education and tools to achieve optimal health. She also is the author of “Minerals—The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.”