If you ever needed a better excuse to get more tattoos, we’ve got one for you. Tattoos can help boost the immune system and even fight off the common cold, according to studies done by University of Alabama scholars.
UA News reports having multiple tattoos can strengthen a person’s immunological responses. Each time a person gets inked, the body adjusts to the stress of getting tattoos. A group of volunteers from a tattoo business were selected and tested before and after getting tattoos.
Specifically, researchers measured the levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody, and cortisol, a stress hormone, which suppresses immune response.
Dr. Christopher Lynn, UA associate professor of anthropology, explained how immunoglobulin A works and what it means to people who love tattoos.
“Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defense against some of the common infections we encounter, like colds,” Lynn said.
Whenever a person gets tattoos, immunoglobulin A is used in the body to prevent against infection after a tattoo. The next time a person gets more tattoos, more immunoglobulin A is used, and the person gets another dose of the antibody at a higher level to meet the increased threshold.
Lynn understands how tattoos can knock a person’s body out of balance and how the body has to adjust to get back to normal.
“After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium. However, if you continue to stress your body over and over again, instead of returning to the same set point, it adjusts its internal set points and moves higher.”
According to I4U News, the researchers found people who were only on their first tattoo have a much less level of immunoglobulin A compared to people who have many more tattoos.
As great as it all sounds, it doesn’t mean that everyone should run to the nearest tattoo parlor to get a bunch of tattoos so they can avoid getting colds. It’s oddly easier to catch a cold when you have a fresh tattoo, because your body is physically weakened at first.
Lynn explains, “They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you. It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo.”
Levels of immunoglobulin A were lowered significantly in people who were getting first-time tattoos. This isn’t a surprise, because cortisol would be doing its job in response to the stress of getting permanent tattoos. However, the immunoglobulin A decrease was not so much in people who had more tattoos.
In the initial phase of getting inked, anyone is susceptible to getting ill because their body is trying to heal. At the same time, the healing body is setting thresholds for itself, and the body should be able to handle more damage when the person gets tattooed again.
The study on tattoos and their relationship to colds and infections isn’t conclusive because the sample used was limited, but the evidence gathered shows how tattooing can possibly build up a tolerance in people who have been tattooed multiple times.
Anyone who loves to get tattoos just found another reason to go and get more tattoos, but somewhat ironically, they should not be surprised if they get hit with a cold while their bodies adjust and prepare for the next meeting with the needle.
[Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images]