Don't put anything on your body
chat you wouldn't hang in
your living room!
References and for
Brochures are available from Alberta Health and Wellness, Canadian Blood
Services, Calgary HIV/AIDS Strategies Coalition, or HIV Edmonton at 780.488.5742
For more information about the Public Health Act, www.gov.ab.ca (link to Queen's
Printer then to the Public Health Act, Personal Services.) Long, Gayle E and
Rickman, Leland. Infectious Complications of Tattoos. Clinical Infectious
Diseases 1994; 18:610-19.
Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency's (CCRA) website page: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/
individuals/topics/incometax/return/completing, Copyright Alberta Association of
Registered Nurses Dec 2004
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved
Tattoo You - are Tattoo safe ?
Our current policy on tattoos, branding, piercing,
and other forms of body art has not changed
appreciably over the past thirty years. Our standards date back to a time
when tattooing was restricted to a very small portion of
Registered nurses have occasion to observe numerous and unusual
tattoos, some of which are not obvious to the
casual observer. Even though I work in the Emergency Department where 'anything
goes,' I am occasionally taken aback when I see crude images tattooed on
grandmotherly patients. I chuckle inwardly when heavily tattooed clients insist
they are deathly afraid of needles. But when I see the tattoo, all I can hear is
my medical brain screeching, "YIKES HEPATITIS!" I decided to conduct some
research to see if my fear was justified, and to be armed with facts when
educating patients about tattoos.
Evidence of permanently marking skin for ornamental purposes is traced to 3500
BC in Egypt, but now is found the world over. In recent years, tattoo art has
become so incredibly popular that I seem to be the only person at the gym who
doesn't have one! Younger people are getting into the act: a Details magazine's
poll claims that nearly a quarter of 18 to 25-year-olds have at least one
tattoo. Celebrities help make them not only more socially acceptable, but
downright fashionable as status symbols.
In Alberta, equal numbers of males and females are paying $100 to $150 per hour
for tattoo application. I ask myself, WHY do people get them? Many cite a sense
of control, self-expression, and 'identification with some group which is seen
as symbolic of their individuality, spirituality, or philosophy.' Another reason
for tattooing is reportedly to 'make the body more sexually interesting'.
Are Tattoos Safe?
As with any invasive
procedure, there are risks. Adverse
reactions include infection, erythema
(redness), and some skin disorders such as scarring, allergic dermatitis,
photosensitivity reactions, or psoriasis. I was surprised to learn that some
tattoo inks contain metal fibers such as iron oxide, which can cause intense
skin burning and swelling during MRI procedures. Some radiology departments are
refusing to perform MRIs on patients who have tattoos. Many persons
contemplating getting a tattoo are likely unaware that having one may limit
their future diagnostic options.
Reliable studies are not yet available on the long-term effects of dyes and
heavy metals dragged into the epidural and subarachiioid spaces.
Anesthesiologists are increasingly concerned about the safety of inserting
needles and epidural catheters through tattooed areas and in some situations,
anesthetists will refuse to perform epidurals if they can't find tattoo-free
skin to go through.
The Center for Disease Control (USA) and Communicable Disease Control
in Alberta clearly state that Hepatitis B and
C transmission does occur via. infected tattoo equipment, and there is a risk of
HIV infection. Tuberculosis, syphilis, tetanus and herpes transmission have been
associated with tattooing, usually from the tattooist mixing saliva with ink or
holding needles in their mouths. In the Calgary Health Region, tattoo
establishments are inspected roughly twice a year and are regulated under the
Health Standards and Guidelines for Tattooing under the Public Health Act
(Personal Services). However, tattoo ink ingredients are not monitored in
RNs are well
positioned to strongly encourage their clients to consider all pros and cons
before taking the tattoo plunge. Ask questions such as:
* "is a permanent: tattoo really worth the health risks and pain?"
* "Might the tattoo be evident in future wedding photos?"
* "Might being tattooed damage employment or promotional chances with certain
employers (certain jobs are not available to people who have visible body art)?"
* "What if you don't like it? Do you have enough money to get it taken off?"
* Did you know that some people with tattoos can't have MRI tests?
Emotional risks such as hindering relationships with prospective love interests,
or being perceived in a negative way by strangers or future in-laws should be
explored as potential post-tattoo situations.
If your patient insists on getting
tattooed, instruct him to shop around for
a skilled and licensed technician who
wears gloves, uses only sterilized equipment, and who only uses high quality ink
(i.e. NOT containing metal fibres), and never smokes during the procedure.
(Believe it or not, not smoking during the procedure is a specifically mentioned
guideline!) The practitioner must always use sterile technique, and provide full
post-procedure instructions. Choosing a safe practitioner is the responsibility
of the patient.