Tattoo artists, like New York City's Rachel Finelli a.k.a. @soft__cake, have been getting several emails from their clients with the same exact inquiry: I'm getting the COVID-19 vaccine this week and heard I should wait a couple of days (or even weeks) before getting tattooed. Should I reschedule my appointment?
Many tattooists haven't been able to give their clients a clear answer, and well, doctors don't really have one either. Because the vaccines are so new, info on this topic is limited. Michael Chang, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, owes this to the fact that "the ages where most people get vaccinations — children under 12 and adults over 60 — are not as actively getting tattoos as everyone in between," he tells Allure.
However, doctors were able to share some helpful insight with Allure for you to consider before scheduling your vaccine and tattoo appointments.
First and foremost, there are no contraindications to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shortly before or after getting a tattoo at this time. A specific wait time between getting vaccinated and tattooed also hasn't been recommended either. "Based on how the various vaccines work, whether mRNA or adenoviral vector-based, there isn't any reason to think getting a tattoo would influence how well the vaccines work," Chang says. "Also, there isn't any reason you can't get the vaccine through the site of a previous tattoo that I am aware of."
The biggest issue lies in the similar side effects vaccines and tattoos have. Both can cause arm soreness, pain, and redness. With this in mind, Chang and Sunitha Posina, a board-certified physician in internal medicine in Stony Brook, New York, recommend avoiding placing your new body art in the same area as you get (or got) the vaccine. Basically, you might not want to get any arm tattoos around the same time as your vaccine appointment. Reason being: "If the site were to become red and swollen, it would be unclear the reason for the reaction and better to avoid it in that situation," she explains.
Both needle-based situations can also cause you to develop fatigue or a low-grade fever within 48 hours. "A local infection after tattoo may need antibiotic therapy, and you don't want to blow it off and blame the vaccine," Chang explains.
If you are set on getting a tattoo on your arm, though, San Diego-based board-certified family medicine physician Abisola Olulade recommends waiting a couple of days and letting any possible vaccination side effects pass before getting tattooed in the same area as your vaccine site. "Also, keep in mind that [if you end up having] pain at the injection site after getting a vaccine and also after getting a tattoo [you could] have two different areas of the body that are painful at the same time [and that] may be challenging for a lot of people," she adds.
Remember to keep both areas where you got vaccinated and tattooed clean to help prevent any infections. However, an allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, and pain, is always possible, Posina says. "If you have redness lasting more than just a few days or drainage or worsened pain, then you should seek urgent medical attention," Olulade adds.
Also, remember to wear a mask to both appointments, and be sure your tattoo artist is taking proper safety and social distancing measures, such as good ventilation and limiting the number of people in their shop, since physical distance isn't possible when getting a tattoo, Chang says. "If you develop any kind of COVID-type symptoms prior to going out for your tattoo, even if you have been vaccinated, I recommend rescheduling and following CDC recommendations on isolation and quarantine," he adds.
With all this in mind, proceed with caution when booking your appointments.
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