The hidden risks behind tattoos

Hep C is a virus that is spread by blood to blood contact.

Tattoos or body piercings done using unsterile equipment or outside of a reputable studio may put you at risk of hep C and serious liver disease.

Find out more

Tattoos and body piercings could be a hep C risk

Because needles puncture your skin when you’re getting a tattoo or piercing this can cause bleeding. If even small amounts of infected blood remain on the tattoo needle or in the ink and the needles and equipment are re-used or not sterilised properly, the virus could be transferred to you during the tattooing process.

Your risk is greater if the tattoo or piercing was done while in prison or at non-professional premises.

Hep C (also known as hepatitis C) is more common in some countries in Asia and Africa, but it occurs in nearly every part of the world. The risk to most travellers is low, but travellers could become infected if they get tattoos or piercings or receive acupuncture with needles that are not sterile. Many people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Even though a person has no symptoms, the virus can still cause damage and be detected in the blood..

A little research beforehand can help decrease the risks

How can I protect myself when I get a tattoo?

It’s recommended you go to a reputable tattoo artist who practices the following:

  1. Uses only new sterilised needles and separate ink pots
  2. Sterilises any equipment that may come into contact with blood
  3. Uses safety gloves
  4. Cleans and disinfects surfaces
  5. Safely disposes of any materials that come into contact with blood.


The only way to know if you have hep C is to get tested.

How do i know if i have hep C?

Hep C can be transmitted in many other ways and it’s common for people not to have any symptoms. If they do appear, they can include extreme tiredness and fatigue, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain.

Use our risk factors and symptoms checklist to see if you should get tested for hep c.


Hep C can be treated

A new hep C infection does not always require treatment and some people can clear the infection within the first 6 months. If the new infection persists beyond this point, it is considered chronic and requires treatment.

With treatment, hep C can be cured*.

*Cure means that the hep C virus is not found in the blood 3 months after the end of treatment.

A healthcare professional will be able to advise if treatment is required.



Testing saves lives

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