Allergies can happen to anyone, and they can occur year-round. Everything from dust allergies, to food allergies, to pet allergies – they’re all very common. But did you know you could also be allergic to tattoo ink?

There are many things that you should consider prior to committing yourself to a tattoo, because once you make that choice – while possible – it’s not the easiest thing to reverse. Tattoos are removed through many laser treatments, which can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years depending on the size and location of the tattoo, and it can be a very painful process; but aside from deciding whether or not you want to keep that tattoo you got on a whim when you were 16, getting a tattoo can also affect your health. It’s always a good idea to do your research into tattoo shops and tattoo artists rather than going to the first tattoo parlour you see advertised. This is due in part to the possibility that, albeit rare, there are tattoo artists working out there that are unlicensed or may not practice the safest methods when it comes to tattoo needles, which can result in infection or the development of very serious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Needle use isn’t the only thing you should be worried about, however, as tattoo ink itself can also be harmful and cause allergic or adverse reactions. An unusual response and/or allergy to tattoo ink will often result in swelling, irritation, rash and/or redness around the site of the tattoo. While individuals tend to react to red tattoo ink, it’s possible to be allergic to any and all colours. Tattoo ink contains many chemicals and different ingredients, such as mercury sulfide, iron oxide, aluminum, ferric hydrate and manganese, all of which can cause allergic reactions.

There are different ways in which a tattoo allergy can occur. It can be acute, meaning the swelling and inflammation is only temporary and will usually subside after a couple of weeks. You can also develop something known as sensitivity, meaning an allergic response will be triggered when your tattoo is exposed to the sun. You can also develop dermatitis from tattoos, which can cause dryness, redness and itching. Allergic reactions to tattoos can also be delayed and may not be present until a few weeks or even months after you’ve gotten the tattoo.

The most important thing to do if you do develop an allergic reaction from a tattoo is to NOT try to treat it yourself. Putting ointments or creams on the tattoo to help subside any of the symptoms may only worsen the allergy and could do damage to the tattoo itself. Instead, book a visit with your family physician or go to the nearest walk-in clinic. Brentwood Medical Clinic, for example, is where Dr. Ali Ghahary practices, and he is available to see walk-in patients on weekdays and weekends; click here for his schedule. Your doctor will be able to determine the severity of your allergy, recommend treatment, and if necessary, refer you to a dermatologist.