By its very nature, the process of getting a tattoo involves repeatedly piercing the skin with tiny pricking motions to insert ink. This raises the issue of whether there is a risk of getting a MRSA staph infection when getting ink done.
What is MRSA? MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Scary already, huh? In English, this phrase refers to a bacteria that is resistant to treatment by antibiotics that are commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections. This is a more resistant strain of the basic staph infection referred to in most medical discussions.
Why is MRSA a big scare these days? Well, 19,000 people a year die from the infection. That being said, is has been getting more attention recently because of outbreaks in the NFL. Professional football players with the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns have been infected with MRSA at an alarming rate. Some players have missed entire seasons while others have simply been hospitalized in the middle of the season.
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MRSA generally becomes a problem when it penetrates the skin and gets into the internal blood transfer system. That being said, it is easy to kill when it is on the exterior of the skin, a place it is often found. The use of products like Hand Sanz and rubbing alcohol can usually wipe out the bacteria within 15 seconds.
So, are you at an increased risk for a MRSA staph infection if you get a tattoo? Yes, but the question is how much so? Well, let me ask you a question. If there were MRSA outbreaks in tattoo parlors, do you think we would hear about them in the news? You and I both know it would be the lead story and followed by some politician looking to shut the tat businesses down!
While there is a risk with just about anything, tattoo studios are actually very clean environments. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. It has to do with the fact that laws were passed that require the studios to focus on sterility. This includes everything from wearing sterile medical gloves to using sterile needles to cleaning the area of the body in question by sterilizing it prior to applying the tat. Basically, it is sterility from beginning to end, so the opportunity for MRSA to cause problems is pretty low. Again, it should be stated that is a legal requirement and tattoo studios are hypersensitive to keeping things clean because they know their business realizes upon it.
Is there some risk of a MRSA infection when getting a tattoo? Yes. Is it a big risk? Statistically, it is not.
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