As of writing this, an estimated 125,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, a novel coronavirus discovered in the Hubei province of China, which I’m sure everyone and their mother has read up on and extensively researched. While you might feel like you know far more about coronaviruses today than you probably ever cared to, some questions still bear asking. One such question being: if I want to get a tattoo in the next few weeks, should I really go ahead and get that tattoo, or should I just wait for all this to blow over and get it done at some point in the summer?

While it’s true that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly and seems to affect people at all ages, with mortality rates currently much higher than the flu, I should mention that the chance of getting infected with the coronavirus at a tattoo parlor is relatively low as of right now, for a multitude of reasons.

That being said, a tattoo or piercing can negatively impact your body’s natural ability to fight back against the virus, should it infect you. This bears mentioning for the simple reason that people should think twice about their upcoming tattoos, not so much because of sanitation at the parlor, but because a weakened immune system is probably not worth the trouble right now.

Pick a Reputable Tattoo Parlor

Here’s the most important thing when it comes to avoiding an infection right now: you want to avoid potential sources and keep your immune system strong. That means getting plenty of sleep, nutritious food, and exercise. It also means avoiding contact with others, wiping sweat off equipment at the gym, and not shaking hands or hugging.

When getting a tattoo, you’re letting another human being jab a needle into your skin at a rate of several thousand jabs per minute, creating an open wound that must heal gradually. There are countless laws in place in many states and counties requiring all tattoo artists and tattoo parlors to operate as per several stringent health and safety regulations, including the use of physical barriers, single-use gloves, single-use needles, plastic coverings, masks, cleaning supplies, several accessible hand washing stations, and more.

On the other hand, there are also states and counties where such laws do not exist or are far less stringent. This means, depending on where you’re getting your tattoo, you must do your own due diligence and make sure that the tattoo parlor is clean and sanitary, and that all equipment is regularly disinfected and sterilized (in an autoclave), and that the artist themselves is trained in avoiding contaminations and infections.

The better your tattoo artist’s reputation, the less you have to worry about. However, that doesn’t mean it’s purely their responsibility to keep your body out of trouble.

A Tattoo is an Open Wound

Again, this needs to be stressed. Tattoos are awesome. They’re fun to get, depending on when and where. And they’re definitely fun to show off and see on your own skin. But the process of actually getting a tattoo is physically traumatizing, in the sense that it puts your body and immune system under a lot of stress. Poor sanitation and lax health and safety practices within tattoo parlors can lead to rampant outbreaks of various bacterial and viral infections. And outside of the parlor, a tattoo as an open wound continues to attract infection if not properly treated.

That means maintaining the right level of moisture to help the wound heal, without having so much moisture that it begins to breed bacteria. That means keeping it clean without completely sealing it off. That means washing it regularly without irritating and interrupting the healing process with aggressive cleaning supplies.

And just because your tattoo is being kept safe doesn’t mean the rest of your body isn’t at risk. When the body needs to reallocate resources to begin healing and managing an open wound, it’s put at further risk of an infection elsewhere due to a weakened immune system. It’s pretty clear that a tattoo is a serious stressor of the immune system, so helping it heal up as fast as possible (or avoiding it outright until the crisis passes) is priority number one.

This is an even more significant issue if you get tattooed with ink you happen to be allergic against. Not only can that lead to a nasty breakout and a pretty botched healing process, but the stress that an ink allergy places on your system is quite significant. Be sure to ask your tattoo artist and dermatologist about tattoo ink allergies before you start getting inked.

Focus on Your Aftercare

Again, let’s say you’ve already gotten tattooed recently and are now worried that you’re in a position to be more easily infected than your peers. First of all, stay home. If you live with others, ask them to wash their hands and face frequently and avoid contact with crowds or unnecessary human interaction.

Secondly, deal with your aftercare: diligently, and often. Keep it air dry, apply ointments or Vaseline, and continue to wash, dry, and moisturize it several times per day in the beginning. If you’re already peeling, let it peel without picking at any of the skin yourself. If the original redness and/or swelling from day one hasn’t subsided or continues to grow, contact a dermatologist or book an appointment with your doc.

Remember to monitor for the symptoms of the virus itself. A fever, a cough, shortness of breath, and a sore throat can be signs of any series of upper respiratory tract infections, but as of now there’s no real way to differentiate between the symptoms of COVID-19 and other infections without a test from a medical professional. If you’re still getting a tattoo or if you’ve already got one, stay at home while you’re healing up.

 

You Could Save Your Money

Alternatively, consider saving the money you were going to spend on the tattoo and putting it into a rainy day fund, to save up and survive the next few weeks should the markets continue to drop, and workplaces continue to announce mandatory leave.

Or even better, save a little extra up so once this all blows over, you can splurge and go for an even bigger tattoo idea than you originally had in mind.