Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens and How to Avoid Them
If you’re planning on giving or getting a new tattoo, it’s important that you understand bloodborne pathogens and how to avoid them. Read on for more information.
Stick and poke tattoos have got a bad reputation because many believe they’re an unsafe alternative to tattoos created in a studio. The truth is, all tattoos are only as safe as the precautions in place to reduce the risk of infection and the spread of disease, regardless of the location.
One of the biggest risks associated with any tattoo is the spread of bloodborne pathogens (BBPs). In this article, we’re going to explain what a BBP is, what the risks are with getting a tattoo, as well as how you can minimize these risks with the right safety protocols in place.
What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms that can be transmitted from one person to another via infected blood and other bodily fluids. These diseases come with unpleasant side effects and can affect your quality of life. In severe cases and if left untreated, they can lead to a shorter life expectancy.
Bloodborne Pathogens and Tattoos
While bloodborne pathogens can be contracted through any exchange of bodily fluid, they are most commonly transferred from one person to another through needlesticks and other injuries that relate to sharp objects and the exposure of blood. This is why tattoo artists and those receiving tattoos are at higher risk.
A tattoo is essentially an open wound. If the needle, ink, ink cup, or any other piece of equipment is infected by a BBP, you are at higher risk of contracting a disease, regardless of whether you are giving or receiving the tattoo. This is one of the key reasons that professional tattoo artists have to maintain pristine, sterilized studios at all times.
The Three Most Common Bloodborne Pathogens
While there are numerous different types of BBPs, here are three of the most common ones you should know about:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that attacks the cells in the body, leaving it unable to fight against other diseases and infections. Untreated, HIV leads to AIDS, the late stages of the infection which often lead to death. While HIV and AIDS cannot be cured, a person can live a long life with HIV with the right treatment protocol.
Hepatitis B, or HBV, is another BBP that is spread through blood and bodily fluids. Some people go years without any symptoms, however, some of the side effects of the disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach discomfort
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
Because the disease is a liver infection, it can cause jaundice, a condition where the skin, mucous membranes, and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. For many, hepatitis B is an illness with mild symptoms. That said, it can become a chronic infection if left untreated. HBV can live outside of the body for up to 7 days so sterilizing your environment is essential.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is another liver disease that ranges from a mild illness of just a few weeks to a lifelong chronic condition. The majority of people do not experience any symptoms for months. Once side effects do arise, they are much the same as those of hepatitis B.
The key difference between the two types of hepatitis is that with HCV, the body’s immune response can clear and cure the infection. With hepatitis B, medication can help keep the virus under control but may not cure it altogether.
How to Reduce the Risk of Contracting a Bloodborne Pathogen
While all of these bloodborne pathogens may seem scary, there are various ways you can minimize the risk of contracting them. These include:
Keeping Your Vaccines Up-to-Date
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines against HIV or hepatitis C. However, you can get vaccinated against hepatitis B. To minimize the spread of disease always check your vaccines are up-to-date before you give or get a new tattoo.
Implementing the Correct Health and Safety Precautions
If you plan on creating your own stick and poke designs from the comforts of home, you should make sure you implement the correct health and safety precautions. Some of these include:
- Sterilizing all of your work surfaces before and after you complete the tattoo
- Using sterilized disposable surface coverings
- Buying individually packaged, sterilized needles and ink cups
- Only using professional tattoo ink
- Never using the same equipment on different people
- Protecting yourself by wearing a pair of latex or nitrile gloves
- Disposing of all of your equipment at a professional facility
If you’re getting a tattoo at a professional studio, make sure they also implement the above checklist.
Undertaking a Bloodborne Pathogens Training Course
Today, numerous bloodborne pathogens training courses provide you with all of the information you need to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading a disease. If you plan on taking your tattooing career to the next level, you may want to consider enrolling in one of these programs.
Use a Professional Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit
Last but not least, the equipment you use will make all of the difference when it comes to health and safety. Too often, we hear stories of people using sewing needles and pen ink to create their tattoos. Worse yet, they “sterilize” the end of the needle with a lighter before using it over and over again on different people.
Luckily, today there are professional tattoo kits that come with all of the equipment you need to create safe stick and poke designs from the comforts of home. While kits vary depending on the one you choose, you can typically expect to find the following equipment:
- Professional, individually packaged, sterilized needles
- Professional tattoo ink
- Sterilized ink cups
- Disposable surface covers
- Latex or nitrile gloves
- Alcohol wipes
- Professional tattoo wipes
- Aftercare balm
- Protective film
If you’d like to buy a professional stick and poke tattoo kit to ensure that you achieve the best results while minimizing the risk of contracting a BBP, visit our store today! We offer several different kits, all of which come with the equipment listed above, and more!