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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Tattoo Problems - Home Treatment

Caring for a tattoo

Most minor swelling and redness (inflammation) from a tattoo can be treated at home. If your tattoo artist gave you instructions, follow them carefully.

If you did not receive instructions for skin care of the tattoo site, try the following:

  • Stop any bleeding. Minimal bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the wound. It is normal for the tattoo site to ooze small amounts of blood for up to 24 hours and clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid for several days.
  • Apply a cold pack to help reduce the swelling, bruising, or itching. Never apply ice directly to the skin. This can cause tissue damage. Put a layer of fabric between the cold pack and the skin.
  • Take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, to help treat hives and relieve itching. Be sure to read and follow any warning on the label. Do not use strong soaps, detergents, and other chemicals, which can make itching worse.
  • Protect your tattoo with a bandage if it might become dirty or irritated.
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin or Bacitracin, to a nonstick bandage, such as Telfa.
    • Apply the nonstick bandage with the ointment on it to the tattoo site. The ointment will prevent the irritated skin from sticking to the bandage. Putting the ointment on the bandage first will be less painful. If a skin rash or itching under the bandage starts, wash the ointment off and don't use that type of ointment again. The rash may mean an allergic reaction.
    • Apply a clean bandage once a day and change the bandage if it gets wet. If the bandage sticks, soak the tattoo area in warm water for a few minutes or take the bandage off under running water in the shower.
    • Leave the bandage off with the skin open to air whenever you can.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your pain:
Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 03, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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