I’m normally not one to talk about my various biological issues on my blog, but I kind of feel like I should mention this one. When it happened to me and I was frantically googling to find out if my skin was about to explode and cause me to die, I had a hell of a time finding anything and I was scared half to death.
So this is what happened:
While I was in London–the day we interviewed Elliot Grove, actually–I got hit by sudden, painful, oh sweet Aphrodite let me scrub it with a wire brush why god why itching on my right arm. Specifically on my new-ish tattoo, which at that point I’d had for nearly a month with no adverse effects. And even stranger, it wasn’t even the entire tattoo–it was just under one particular circular area, the stylized galaxy on my right forearm.
It was weird, and sudden, and I had a minor freak out because I though it might be some kind of insect bite, and oh shit what if it was bed bugs. Though I quickly realized that made no sense at all, because why the hell would bug just bite me on that one spot, and only where I had ink?
The itching got continuously worse, and the skin in that area got very inflamed. I actually stopped wanting to scratch it pretty quickly just because it was so damn painful, to the point that wearing my shirtsleeves down felt like scrubbing that bit of my skin with sandpaper.
What little I could find with google indicated that it was likely I’d developed a random allergic reaction to something that was in the ink from the tattoo. Which did make sense, considering the rash was limited to one area, and that was the only area in any of the tattoos where I had gray ink. What I managed to glean from some random forums where other people had this issue was that it would probably go away in a few weeks on its own (argh), but if not I might have to have the tattoo removed(!!!!).
I’m happy to report I haven’t had to get the tattoo removed. And the rash has now officially gone away. I don’t know if it was environmental or what, since it felt like it got a little bit better as soon as I left London. Guess I’ll find out on that one when I go back to the UK for Christmas.
Mostly, I just want to tell you, if you get a random tattoo-related rash, it will most likely be okay. Here’s what you do:
- Do not freak out.
- DO NOT ITCH.
- Take some kind of allergy medication. I used Claritin (generic: Loratadine) which didn’t make the rash go away, but made it significantly less itchy to the point that I lasted the next two weeks without losing my goddamn mind. If you can take Benadryl (generic: Diphenhydramine) without being completely fucked up by it, you might want to give that a whirl.
- I had some limited success with using hydrocortisone cream on the rash. However, what really seemed to make a difference was when I got home and had access to a different (stronger) steroid ointment that I have via prescription (I normally use it to treat eczema I occasionally get on my hands and feet). Which brings us to:
- If you can do so easily and cheaply, just go to a dermatologist and get something prescribed to treat the itching.
- Wait for the rash to go away.
- If it hasn’t gone away in three weeks, definitely go to the dermatologist.
My rash started getting less awful after about a week, which just so happened to coincide with when I got home and had access to my better steroid ointment. (We have a slight and unanswerable correlation/causation issue here, I’m afraid.) After a week of self-treating with the ointment and claritin, I’m off both and just fine. Though the skin on that portion of the tattoo is a little dry and scaly, which I expect to correct on its own in a little more time.
And hopefully that’s the end of it. Random allergic reaction go go go!