If you're really sick with a virus or bacterial infection, you probably don't want to do much of anything, not least go to get a tattoo or piercing. But what if you're starting to get better, or just have a simple cold or hay fever? At what point is it physically safe for you to get pierced? And when is it okay to get a tattoo?
Can You Get a Tattoo When You're Sick?
If you have any kind of communicable disease or infection, consult your healthcare provider about whether or not to get a piercing or tattoo. You don't want to compromise your immune system, and although it may not feel like it, both piercings and tattoos take their toll on your body. Any time you're sick or have a wound, it creates an immune system response, meaning that your body sends out white blood cells, antibodies, proteins and other bodily "soldiers" to wage war on whatever is causing the problem—be it bacteria, virus, or even something you're highly allergic to. The more your immune system has to fight, the harder it has to work and the more thinly spread out the soldiers become. If you're already fighting one thing, you don't want to purposely invite more trouble for your body to deal with.
And as rare as it may be, you obviously don't want to infect someone else for something that can be postponed. Getting a piercing or tattoo when your immune system isn't at 100 percent simply isn't a good idea, even if you just have a cold.
Take a daily zinc supplement to help boost your immune system and prevent illness.
Just like going to the gym or the office, it's also pretty inconsiderate to bring your illness into the tattoo/piercing studio and risk passing the germs onto others, not least of all your artist. They would much rather you cancel, and then help find a way to reschedule your appointment with you, than have you give them an illness that will make them lose out on other clients by not being able to go to work. But it begs the question: how far out should you reschedule your appointment? Would a week be enough time to get over a cold? Sadly, probably not.
Sick or not, consumers should exercise caution when going under the needle, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In a post on the CDC's website, the agency recommends using only parlors that are approved or registered by their local jurisdictions, ensuring that tattoo artists follow appropriate hygienic practices, and educating yourself about the potential for infection.
Booking Your Appointment
Once you start feeling better, that doesn't mean your immune system is up and running at full efficiency. While sick we usually don't get sufficient rest, don't take in proper nourishment, and exhaust our bodies with the symptoms of being sick like sneezing, coughing, vomiting, etc. It takes a while for the body and immune system to get back to normal after a period of illness. The first step toward a healthy body is proper nourishment, which is why taking your vitamins and eating a balanced diet is the key to recovery. Lack of sufficient calories and/or too much sugar weakens the immune system all by itself.
The Final Takeaway
If you can, get moving. If you can't walk a mile at your own pace without getting winded, your body is still probably immunocompromised. Eating well, drinking plenty of water and being able to walk a mile with ease are good signs that your body is healthy and able to withstand a blow to the immune system. Sometimes recovery can take a while, even after "just a cold." So when rescheduling your appointment, give yourself two or three weeks. It's worth the wait, and your body will thank you.
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Wessels I, Maywald M, Rink L. Zinc as a gatekeeper of immune function. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1286. doi:10.3390/nu9121286
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hidden dangers of getting inked. Updated August 22, 2012.
Myles IA. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity. Nutr J. 2014;13:61. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-61