HCV and Getting a Piercing or Tattoo
Last updated: March 2023
When researching how some people become infected with hepatitis C, there are many articles to be found that discuss the possible exposure to hepatitis C through visiting an unlicensed tattoo parlor. Some even also mention visiting an unlicensed piercing facility. In either case, hepatitis C exposure and infection can occur if the needle being used is not properly cleaned and sterilized. Unfortunately, however, there is often little acknowledgment given on these informative websites and resource materials regarding what happens when someone with hepatitis C decides to get a tattoo or a piercing.
When considering a tattoo, it is important for a person to think through this decision. For most, the focus is on choosing the most pleasing design and the best color palate to represent the person’s mental image of what they want their final piece to look like. For those with hepatitis C, however, there are other additional aspects to consider. While the look of the tattoo is always critical when deciding to get tattooed, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. This if first because a person does not want to become exposed to new strains of hepatitis C in an unlicensed or unclean tattoo shop and second, it is important to know that the person who is planning to complete the tattoo work is someone who practices safety throughout the tattooing experience. The safety of a tattoo includes everything from the artist always wearing clean, rubber gloves to knowing how to handle if a patient passes out from the tattooing process, which can happen if a client remains in an unnatural position for too long in order to get the skin to lie flat for the work to be done or if the pain becomes too intense for some people to handle. These basic first aid procedures can be vital in the safety of everyone in the shop. They not only inform how you will be treated, they also let you know whether the people within the shop are able to properly care for other clients in the shop at the same time you are, or if you could be exposed to bodily fluids and problems from previous clients.
Tattooing before or during hepatitis C treatment
In addition, it is important to find a tattoo artist who understands how to best work with clients and their safety needs because it is necessary to let the artist know about your hepatitis C status. This may cause some to exercise additional precautions, such as wearing a mask or extra covering when tattooing to avoid contact with even trace amounts of your blood. It may also cause a tattoo artist to request that you wait to get tattooed until you are done with your hepatitis C treatment protocol. Since a tattoo is considered an open wound that requires being left open to the air in order to heal, some may recommend that it is not wise to allow this to occur when the experience may lead to exposing others to hepatitis C. Letting your tattoo artist know about your diagnosis and your treatment plan will allow them the best possible opportunity to discuss your tattooing options and timeline, in order to ensure an amazing piece of art for your skin and a safe environment for you and for them.
When considering getting a piercing, some may see no reason to wait until the end of their hepatitis C treatment. Some may think that as long as the piercing shop is clean and licensed, there should be no reason to wait. There may be some piercers who agree. However, since a piercing involves blood exposure, it is still important to let the piercer know about your diagnosis before getting pierced. This can allow the expert piercer to discuss options with you. Some may recommend waiting for the end of treatment so that the body can properly heal without also trying to heal from the virus. Others may suggest choosing one type of piercing jewelry over another based on the healing speed, which can vary based on the jewelry’s size, shape, and ability to be properly cleaned during the healing process.
Piercing before or during hepatitis C treatment
Some may tell you that there is no difference at all in your experience as the client, but that they either do not feel comfortable piercing someone who is in the middle of treatment or that they will be wearing additional protection such as goggles, masks, or clothing coverings, in order to protect themselves and prevent being exposed to the virus. Although the piercer may not tell you what you want to hear, it is important to listen to their advice, as they can best guide you toward the solution that will be most likely to leave you with a properly healed piercing for you to love for years to come.1-5
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