Tuesday, January 10, 2012

65. Disease & Infection

I've seen a rise in friends sharing jewelry with friends, and even between family members. It's true, you can spread disease by sharing body jewelry when it's not sterilized properly (i.e. autoclave), and even then, not all materials can be autoclaved (like acrylic). Chemical sterilization cannot guarantee the removal of all bacterias. If you think it's perfectly fine, always know you cannot be 100% sure. Even between family members, someone may have a disease and not know it.

I found this picture online of a "tattoo artist" doing a tattoo with no gloves on. This is pretty much what inspired me to write this blog. You can obviously see that the person tattooing has open/healing wounds on their hand. This is one of the many reasons why you should always see a professional tattoo artist working in a licensed shop, and not go to someone in their home. It doesn't matter if it's your cousin or your best friend, there is a reason why they are not working in a clean, SAFE environment. THINK before doing something like this.

I thought I would just share a little bit about infections and diseases.

Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV are generally the diseases most worried over, but many other diseases and infections can easily be spread through direct and indirect contact, like staph/MRSA and other bacterial infections, and blood infections.

Hepatitis B (HBV)is an inflammatory liver disease and is 100 more times infectious than HIV. here's a scary fact too, it can live on a dry surface for seven days. Most people who have HBV don't know it because symptoms are similar to the flu and will generally go unnoticed. HBV is treatable, but 10% of people will develop serious health issues from the disease which often lead to death. Hepatitis C (HCV) is also an inflammatory liver disease, and 80% people who have HCV will become chronically infected and suffer from life-threatening problems (like cirrhosis and liver cancer). Symptoms of hepatitis C are similar to flu-like symptoms as well, and will often go unnoticed for 10 to 40 years. Some people will carry it for 30 to 40 years before developing cirrhosis, or other serious complications.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a chronic medical condition that generally leads to AIDS. Many people infected with HIV will not develop serious symptoms for sometimes up to 10 years, and many of the symptoms are similar to that of the flu. Many people diagnosed with HIV have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis. Over one million people live in the United States are infected with HIV, with one out of every five not knowing they are infected with the disease.

Staph and other infections are often serious and can result in death. Your vital organs can be shut down within days and/or you can experience permanent paralysis from infection. The tenth most common cause for death in Americans is blood infection. It is as easy as not washing your hands to get an infection, so it's important to never touch a healing piercing or tattoo with dirty hands, and to keep your hands as far away from the body art at all other times. Do not let other people touch your new art/piercing either. Some bacteria can jump, or even travel three feet to find an accommodating place for survival.

How can I prevent getting HBV, HCV, and HIV?
-WASH YOUR HANDS. Some diseases can live on dry surfaces for days (i.e. door handles, railings, etc etc).
-Avoid using drugs that require needles, or other drug-related devices like snorting straws. Since HBV, HCV and HIV enter the body through blood or other bodily fluids, like a cut or needle puncture, people who use needles are at a much higher risk.
-Practice safe sex. Barrier protection is especially important. Though using condoms may not prevent transmission of these diseases, it will help reduce the risk.
-Don't share personal items with friends or family members. Toothbrushes, razors, and even old body jewelry could be contaminated with small amounts of blood. (activities like holding hands or hugging will not spread the virus)
-Contaminated food and water can easily spread hepatitis a, which is spread through fecal-oral method. It's more common outside of the US, as fecal contamination of food is uncommon here.

How can I prevent an infection?
-Wash your hands regularly with anti-bacterial or anti-microbial soap, especially after the use of public restrooms. Always wash your hands before touching your new piercing or tattoo.
-Keep your hands away from the piercing or tattoo if you're not cleaning it. Some bacteria can jump or travel.
-Clean your sheets, pillow cases, and towels regularly. Wear clean clothing.
-Avoid make-up, face wash, shampoos & conditioners, body wash, fragrances & dyes, and spray/lotion tan away from the piercing or tattoo during healing. Some piercings will not like make-up or lotions, even after they have healed.
-Don't go in any pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, or any other body of water for AT LEAST two weeks after getting body art done.

Infection generally looks like:
-Severe redness, usually with redness spreading outward, sometimes in streaks.
-Severe swelling accompanied with secretion that is greenish, brown, grey or black in color. The pus will often be mixed with blood. (a whitish to yellowish secretion is normal)
-Heat and severe pain at the sight of infection.
-Some infections are accompanied by fever and swollen lymph nodes.
-If you believe there is an infection, do not remove the jewelry! This could potentially trap the infection inside with no place for draining, potentially making the problems worse.
-Also, if you believe you have an infection, go to the hospital. Do not risk your well being!

What most people believe is an infection, usually isn't. Redness, swelling, and soreness is common in new and healing piercings and tattoos. Especially in piercings, some will have minor redness and secretion throughout the entire duration of healing (common in navels and certain lip piercings) or have off and on scarring and soreness during healing (common in cartilage piercing). Flare-ups are common when the piercing is snagged, bumped, poor jewelry is installed, or make-up is constantly on the piercing which blocks the airflow and prevents natural secretion from escaping. Flare-ups are especially common is surface anchors. If you're experiencing minor problems like this, seeing your piercer may save you a trip to the hospital.

How do you know your piercer/tattoo artist understands what disease control/cross contamination is? OSHA and US federal regulations state that any persons who come into contact with blood or has the potential to come into contact with blood, is required to take an annual Bloodborne Pathogen/Cross Contamination course (BBP/Universal Precautions). If they do not have their card displayed, ask to see it and make sure it is up to date. It should be updated once a year. Don't take a copy of it for an answer either! The back of the card should be filled out and signed, with the front of the card displaying a name and where the training came from. If they do not have one, I would recommend going somewhere else.

It is so easy to spread disease and get an infection, so make safe choices when it comes to your body (even outside of tattoos and piercings). Go to a professional. Make sure they are licensed and have BBP training. Don't share body jewelry. Keep your body art clean! Sleep on clean sheets and pillowcases, and use clean towels!

And don't forget to wash your hands....a lot. I know I do.

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