The 6 Worst Things To Happen At A Tattoo Parlor

by Greta Jochem

You've finally settled on the perfect design, found a tattoo parlor, and decided to take the plunge to get inked. What's the worst that could happen? Maybe a little pain, or it doesn't come out exactly like you want. Maybe you'll regret it down the line, but no way to know for sure. Hate to break it to you, but there are some rare, but seriously bad things that can happen when getting a tattoo.

Now more than ever, people are choosing to go under the needle and get inked. According to CBS News, one in five adults report having a tattoo, even though tattoos can be painful and, in some rare cases, dangerous. CBS News reported in May that a study found that 6 percent of New Yorkers with tattoos suffered "significant" complications, such as rashes or swelling, that persisted for more than four months. Ten percent reported suffering less severe short-term problems. Dr. Marie Leger, the lead researcher on the study said, "We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo."

Now, don't get too freaked out. As the FDA points out, tattoo shops are overseen and regulated by local and state authorities, and there are rules that have to be followed that make getting a tattoo overall pretty safe. But there are some complications that have arisen every now and then that have led the FDA to study the safety of the tattooing process. So, maybe there are some potential scary consequences of getting a tattoo. Check out these six stories of tattoo horrors.

Death By Tattoo

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I might sound extreme, but according to the Daily Mirror, in 2009, one man died from tattoo-related complications. Just hours after leaving the parlor, 35-year-old John Chillingworth felt his new wizard tattoo sting and itch. After it became red two days later, his doctor prescribed him antihistamines and painkillers for infection. Ten days after originally receiving the tattoo, he was found dead on the couch. Authorities concluded that he died after a blood clot formed in his lungs caused by deep vein thrombosis in his calf. The coroner couldn't discern if the thrombosis was from the infected tattoo, or his lack of activity due to the infection's pain. Either way though, you could say that his tattoo killed him — although maybe inadvertently.

Hepatitis C

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According to Salon, Pamela Anderson got hepatitis C, a liver disease caused by the hepatitis virus. She told Jane magazine that her former husband Tommy Lee had hepatitis C, but didn't tell her — a fact she should have known before sharing a tattoo needle with him. She developed hepatitis C, and announced in 2002 she was getting treated for it.

An Outbreak Of Ink-Related Infections

In 2012, health officials reported a spike in infected tattoos from bacteria in the ink. In the most widespread outbreak, 19 people in Rochester, New York, developed rashes from their tattoos — which, New York health officials concluded was from bacteria in the ink or water used to dilute the ink. Officials added that there were 30 similar cases in other states that year. The infection is from Mycobacterium chelonae, a bacterium that is common in tap water, and could get in the ink if a tattoo parlor dilutes the ink with water to make it lighter colored. Moral of the story: Ask about the ink and dilution procedures at the parlor.

Allergic Reaction

In November 2013, the Daily Mail reported that a London woman's tattoo became infected and developed into a growth so large she couldn't wear boots. Nicola Hickman, 37, got a heart tattoo on her ankle for her daughter, but six weeks later, the color began to fade and it was bumpy. As Hickman described the experience, "The weeks went on and it got worse. I tried to ignore it, but it got to the point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t wear proper footwear and I couldn’t sleep on it." When she went to the hospital, she had surgery and is left with a scar. Doctors think that she had an allergic reaction the red dye in the ink.

An Almost Amputation


Think about it: The tattoo artist is using a needle on your skin. If they don't clean it well, you can get an infection. Usually, if your skin becomes irritated and inflamed, it can be easily treated with antibiotics. Not always, though. According to the Daily Mail, a woman from England almost had to have her entire foot amputated after getting a foot tattoo. The woman's foot was swollen the next day, but she didn't think it was a big deal, until it still hurt two weeks later and she went to the hospital. She said doctors diagnosed her with blood poisoning and told her, "If I'd left it any longer, I would have been looking at amputation. It was really, really swollen and infected. They told me that if I'd left it much longer, the infection could have gone to my bone and then I would have looked at losing my foot."


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ABC News reported that, in 2011, a 20-year-old New York man discovered a strange rash on his new forearm design. At first, his doctor thought it was an allergic reaction, but after it persisted he preformed a skin biopsy and found out it was much more serious than an allergy: tuberculosis. TB is a rare bacterial infection that required the man to get a year of treatment from a specialist.

Again — you're not likely to have any of these situations happen to you when you get a tattoo. They're rare cases, but you should still make sure you're going to a legitimate tattoo parlor that adheres to strict safety and hygiene guidelines. Ask what their procedures are and how they'll ensure your safety — and once you get your tattoo, take good care of it.