Home » Ink Poisoning: Reasons, Symptoms and Cure You Need to Know

Ink Poisoning: Reasons, Symptoms and Cure You Need to Know

Times have changed significantly in the last couple of decades, especially concerning how body tattoo is seen. It has become socially acceptable for one to have adorned a body tattoo or even a face tattoo.

There are several smaller tattoo designs one can opt for if someone is not in favor of getting their entire body inked. Recent improvements in tattoo inking have solved this problem. Earlier, tattoo inking was only available in classic black, an excellent option, though. But it did not give too many choices, especially someone looking to ink something different on their body.

Fortunately, the introduction of colored tattoos has significantly changed this entire concept. Now, one can opt for several other colors – red ink, blue ink, or even multicolored tattoos on their body to suit their preference.

But not everything is hunky-dory in the tattoo community. With the rising popularity of tattoos, there has also been an increase of substandard tattoo artists in the market. And, these tattoo artists don’t even aware their customers of the side effects or long-term health impact of inking tattoos.

Moreover, they don’t even advise their customers to take an allergy test before the tattoo procedure. It is important that tattoo artists should tell their customers that some of the substances present in the tattoo ink have long-term repercussions.

Ink Poisoning Reasons, Symptoms and Cure You Need to Know

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Therefore, it becomes essential to research everything about the adverse effects of tattooing, such as ink poisoning, allergy, or itching, before opting to ink their body.

And while there are no statistics about the cases of ink poisoning, why would you want to take such a risk when it could be easily preventable.

Different Types of Ink Poisoning

Yes, you read that right; there are several types of ink poisoning that one could suffer from. Thus, it becomes essential to assess the problems in advance before inking their body.

#1. Poisoning From Ink in the Eye

Poisoning From Ink in the Eye
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Eye irritation is one of the expected results one has to face when they get ink in their eye. It could cause severe issues if one is not careful about the ink in the eye or be callous in their approach. If they get ink in their eye, the first thing one needs to do is rinse it immediately with cool water and keep rinsing until they feel better.

Ink in the eye could lead to permanent blurry vision and other long-term complications. Yet, blindness is not an effect that has been noted.

#2. Poisoning From the Ink on the Skin

Poisoning From the Ink on the Skin
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The spilling of ink does not cause poisoning or any similar condition. Still, a contaminated ink or highly toxic ink could cause a harmful skin reaction if one is allergic to any of its components.

#3. Poisoning Due to Tattoo Ink

Tattoo ink is one of the more common reasons for ink poisoning. It is mainly due to the presence of toxic elements inside the tattoo ink.

Poisoning due to tattoo ink
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What Exactly is Ink Poisoning?

One should keep in mind the various reasons for ink poisoning that are not related to tattoo ink. So equating tattoo ink as the sole reason for getting ink poisoning is not the right way to go. One can even get poisoned if one intake a large amount of pen ink voluntarily or involuntarily, which is another common reason for ink poisoning. So, if someone has a habit of chewing a pen while working, well, it would be best to get rid of such a habit as soon as possible.

What Exactly is Ink Poisoning
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Now onto what ink poisoning is due to tattoos. Generally, it is understood that ink poisoning happens due to external factors such as dirty, unsterilized tattoo tools. While many mistake tattoo infections for ink poisoning, which is not the reality.

It may be possible that tattoo infection and ink poisoning would have some connection in an individual case. But it is not an indication it is anyhow related to each other.

Ink poisoning is only related to the ink that is used to ink the body of an individual suffering from ink poisoning. There could be several other reasons behind ink poisoning. The main problem could be that contaminated ink is used for the tattoo process.

And on the question of how likely one is to get ink poisoning? There is no strong data on the number of cases. Still, according to a study, around 10 percent of unopened tattoo ink bottles have been found to be contaminated. So, the risk for ink poisoning is not zero if that is what is being probed.

What is the Main Reason for People Getting Ink Poisoning?

What is the Main Reason for People Getting Ink Poisoning
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As stated earlier, ink poisoning happens because of the treatment of contaminated ink on an individual’s skin. The tattoo piercing process is such that the needle pierces the skin and deposits the tattoo ink to create the design one is looking to ink on their skin. But what exactly is contaminated ink?

Contaminated ink could be anything from ink that has not been adequately covered after use, not properly packaged, and has collected harmful components. Possibly expired ink that is not fit for use anymore, and inks with too much concentration of toxic chemicals and heavy metals are also the reasons.

Now you might be asking that does not all tattoo ink have toxic chemicals and heavy metals in them? All tattoo ink does have a considerable amount of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in them, which are the main culprits for causing ink poisoning cases around the world. And that is why ink poisoning is such a big problem. Because one could never be sure about the quality of the ink bottles as there is no standardized or regulated ink by FDA. It is likely that even your tattoo artist is not aware of the concentration of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the tattoo ink they are using.

Ingredients Used to Make Tattoo Ink

While one can never be sure of the ingredients used to make a tattoo ink, there are several ingredients that are quite common, like carbon black, iron oxide, chromium, lead, nickel, antimony, beryllium, alcohol, animal fat, oil, and many more, and several of them are easily found on the EPA’s list of common causes of allergic reactions.

An important thing to note is that different ink colors use different materials while producing them. That’s why one cannot rely on a single composition to judge every other ink. Red ink is considered more harmful compared to others because of the higher concentration of cinnabar, iron oxide, denatured alcohols, cadmium, and other harmful ingredients. These alone cause a range of severe health issues to the individuals like skin cancer and infections.

Another crucial factor that leads to ink poisoning is the usage of titanium oxide. It is present in the white pigment (to create shades of color). As soon as these white pigments come in contact with the skin and eventually to the dermis area, the body starts repelling and getting rid of these elements.

But unfortunately, a significant portion of these toxic elements get inside the lymphatic system and travel inside the body forever. And if the individual has a weak immune system, then it cannot fight against these toxic particles. Thus, resulting in ink poisoning.

Ingredients used to make Tattoo ink
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Symptoms of Ink Poisoning

One must reach out to their doctor immediately if there is ink poisoning. A prolonged period of inaction can cause serious health problems, both in the short and long run.

Symptoms of Ink Poisoning
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People generally get confused between ink poisoning and allergic reaction or simple reaction and take the situation in a light manner. In the case of ink poisoning, harmful components already reach the lymph nodes that have allowed it to travel to other parts of the body. It’s simply foolishness.

Not to mention that one must immediately reach out to a doctor in this scenario. The longer it goes untreated, the more severe the symptoms would become, and the more persistent the substance would become in getting inside the individual’s body.  

Here are some of the common symptoms that can help an individual identify a case of ink poisoning, depending on the degree of ink poisoning. And even if you do not have any of the following symptoms, reaching out to your doctor would be a smart thing to do.

#1. Swelling of the Tattoo or the Surrounding Area

Now it is possible that your inked body part is a bit swollen immediately after the tattoo treatment, but if the tattoo or the surrounding area starts to swell after the healing of the tattooed area is done, then you should immediately reach out to your doctor for a consultation on ink poisoning.

#2. Lymph Nodes

If you find that your lymph nodes have started to swell, then it is an indication that the toxic substance inside the ink has reached the lymph nodes, resulting in the swelling of the same. It is one of the more concrete symptoms of ink poisoning, as swelling of tattoos or the surrounding area could also present themselves in some cases of skin allergies.

#3. Joint Pain and Body Aches

After getting your body inked, you start feeling joint pains and body aches and do not have a chronic or existing condition, then it is a sign that you might have ink poisoning.

#4. Increased Body Temperature, Chills

High body temperature, in addition to continuous chills, is another pretty common symptom of ink poisoning.

#5. Irritation and Rashing of the Tattooed Area

Irritation and rashing are some of the more common side effects of getting a tattoo, so how can they be a symptom of ink poisoning? Unless you have opted for a red ink tattoo, there should not be any irritation and rashing on the tattooed area after the healing process is finished. It is a bit difficult to discover in red ink tattoos as irritation could stay with one for an extended period. But suppose you are experiencing irritation and rashes even after the completion of the healing period. In that case, you should reach out to your doctor.

#6. Nausea, Vomiting, and Headaches

If you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, or headaches, then it is possible that you might be suffering from ink poisoning.

Cure For Ink poisoning

What Should One do in Case of Ink Poisoning? Remedies or Cure For Ink poisoning
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You might have noticed that several of the above-listed symptoms are quite familiar and common with ink infection and allergies, which makes it almost impossible for one to be absolutely sure that they are suffering from ink poisoning. So, naturally, the smart thing in such scenarios is to seek medical advice immediately.

It is a common practice in the tattoo community for tattoo artists to make the person getting the tattoo aware of the ink poisoning experiences faced by their other customers. One can reach out to the tattoo artist if they feel they are suffering from ink poisoning for a recommendation and get the name of the ink used on them as it would help the doctor treating them. A physical copy of the ink goes a long way in helping both the doctor and the patient, so if one can get their hands on one, then that would be great. But above all, one should seek out a doctor immediately in case of ink poisoning.

How to Prevent Ink Poisoning?

Why should one worry about getting ink poisoning or get treatment for the same when they can easily prevent ink poisoning from ever happening? Yes, there are several ways one can ensure that one does not suffer from ink poisoning. But first, you should not be too scared about ink poisoning as cases of ink poisoning are actually quite rare, and in case one happens to suffer from ink poisoning, they can be easily treated at their local hospital.

Here are some ways you can make sure that you do not suffer from ink poisoning.

#1. Get Your Tattoo From a Renowned Tattoo Studio

One can find cheap and readily available tattoo artists that can even provide at-home tattoo service. Still, one shouldn’t opt for their services. It is always better to get a tattoo from a reliable and renowned professional artist. Professionals use high-quality ink to minimize the risk of ink poisoning.

#2. Ask for a Swab Test

You would likely be able to get a swab test at a reliable tattoo studio. Through this test, you and your tattoo artist can become aware of any potential allergic reaction to different colors and ink types and can help prevent a case of ink poisoning.

#3. Get Checked For Allergies

Get Checked For Allergies
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While the swab test is good enough, it is possible that the tattoo studio either does not have one or has run out of swabs. So, it is better if you go to your doctor beforehand to check for compounds your body might be allergic to. Also, inform your tattoo artist of the result so that they can avoid using ink-containing substances your body might be allergic to.

#4. Get Your Body in a Healthy Shape

A weak immune system is one of the reasons behind one getting the case of ink poisoning. So, the best way to ensure that such a thing does not happen is by getting their body in shape. Have a healthy diet full of vitamins to boost your immune system. If you can invest in supplements, then it would also be helpful. Drink plenty of water and get sufficient exercise to keep your body healthy.

#6. Remember, You Can Always Cancel or Postpone Your Appointment

If you are not in the perfect shape to get a tattoo, it would be beneficial that you cancel your appointment or reschedule it later. Prevention is always the smart way to go, and you can easily get a tattoo on a later date after getting physically fit first.

Is Vegan Ink a Better Alternative?

There has been no conclusive study to show that vegan ink does not cause ink poisoning because of not containing animal-originating products. Despite the absence of animal-originating products, it still contains denatured alcohols and other toxic substances that could cause one to suffer from ink poisoning.

About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!