Allergic Reaction to Tattoo Dye

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Allergic Reaction to Tattoo Dye

Topic Overview

Allergic reactions to tattoo dye are rare. The various colours in a tattoo are made from different materials. For example, the red colour comes from mercury, the green from chromium, the yellow from cadmium, and the blue from cobalt. Allergic reactions to red dyes occur more often than allergic reactions to other colours.

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system. An allergic reaction can range from mild and annoying to sudden and life-threatening. Allergic reactions do not always occur the first time you are exposed to the dye. For example, if you have had 3 or 4 tattoos without any problems, you could have an allergic reaction to the dye the next time you have a tattoo. Each time you have a tattoo, you must watch for signs of an allergy and get help based on the severity of your reaction.

An allergic reaction can be local and produce swelling, itching, or hives in the area of contact with the allergen. Local reactions can usually be handled at home and are not life-threatening. Hives can be minor, or they can be the first sign of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Sometimes a local allergic reaction can be the start of a more serious whole-body reaction to the allergen. More serious reactions can include swelling of the throat, wheezing, or problems breathing. Blood vessels can be involved and cause a circulatory collapse (anaphylaxis).

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised October 11, 2010

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