Man dies from sepsis after swimming with new tattoo
06/02/2017 // Bridgette Wilcox // Views

Artistic and stunning though they may be, tattoos are still open wounds that need to be taken special care of -- a fact that many newly-tattooed people tend to ignore at their own risk. Such was the case for an unidentified 31-year old man, who had reportedly died from septic shock after his fresh tattoo became infected.

Ignoring the routine precautions given by tattoo artists to newly-tattooed clients, the man took his five-day old calf tattoo for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico, said in a report. The next day, he was said to have developed a fever, chills, and a rash near his tattoo. His condition got worse over the following days, with patches on his legs turning purple.

He was eventually brought to a hospital, where, upon taking a look at his leg, doctors immediately suspected that he was infected with vibrio vulnificus, an aggressive, often deadly bacteria contracted from eating raw shellfish, swimming with an open wound, and stingray stings. The bacteria weakens the immune system and can cause gastroenteritis, necrosis, and sepsis. The man's risk for contracting the infection was increased by his history of cirrhosis, due to an alcohol habit that had him drinking six bottles a day.

Antibiotics were administered to the man, but these proved ineffective and he was put on life-support within 24 hours of being admitted to the hospital. Two weeks later, and after surviving septic shock, the patient's symptoms began to clear up. This only gave false hope to doctors as the man's kidneys failed and he died of septic shock just a few weeks later, a mere two months after being confined.


Swimming with open wounds is the least common way by which people get infected with vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria is most commonly contracted from eating raw, contaminated shellfish. Those with compromised livers should be particularly careful, as they are the most vulnerable to getting infected.

Tattoo safely

The man's painful death is a cautionary tale that reinforces the importance of tattoo safety. Choosing a reputable artist and clean studio is only one part of making sure your skin art doesn't hurt you more than it should. Following up with the appropriate aftercare is just as important, though not all people know what to do post-tattoo. According to, only 30 states require artists to provide aftercare instructions, making aftercare more difficult than it should be.

Aftercare begins the moment your tattoo is completed. Artists typically apply a thin layer of petroleum-based ointment over the fresh tattoo, and then cover it in gauze or plastic wrap. The dressing is meant to protect your wound from getting infected, and also to keep the ink from staining your clothes.

The bandage should be removed after several hours, at which point, the tattoo should be washed. Using clean hands, wash the tattoo with a mild, fragrance-free soap and water. Artists normally recommend the product that's best to use. Dry your tattoo up by patting the area with a soft cloth, and then moisturize with a thin layer of ointment. Leave the tattoo uncovered and wear loose clothes to allow the tattoo to breathe.

Continue cleaning and moisturizing your tattoo daily, switching to a regular moisturizer after a few days of using the ointment. Mild lotions and coconut oil are effective in keeping a tattoo healthy. Expect scabbing and itching to occur after a few days -- just remember to avoid scratching or picking at scabs during this time! This will not only ruin your tattoo design, but make your skin more vulnerable to bacteria.

Paying close attention to the tattoo and watching out for any redness or swelling is also important as your skin heals. If anything odd turns up, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

Taking these measures can keep your tattoo from being ruined, and protect your body from any risks.

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