Getting a tattoo is a stressful experience for your body which can respond to the trauma in very odd ways. Quite common for first time tattooers is a severe headache or what the industry likes to call a tattoo flu. This pain, on top of the pain of brand new ink, can be worrisome.
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Is It Normal to Get a Headache After a Tattoo?
Though it’s not super common, rest assured that it is completely normal to feel a pounding headache after a tattoo. This is sometimes the result of clenching your teeth to handle the pain during your session, but is more often the result of a body response to the trauma which is often referred to as tattoo flu.
When you are being tattooed, your body’s immune system immediately responds to the trauma and sends blood cells to the area to repair the wound, and fills your body with adrenaline. Your body increases your heart rate, becomes tense and stressed as a reaction to the trauma, and then your immune system could be weakened from the “injury”. After your session, you will likely crash from this response. This crash could result in flu-like symptoms like chills, lightheadedness, nausea, or, more commonly, headaches.
How Long Will It Last?
Generally, your symptoms, such as a headache, will fade after a few hours. Once your body realizes that it is no longer “in danger” and doesn’t need an immune response anymore, the pain and flu-like symptoms will fade away.
If you find that your symptoms and your headache last longer than the remainder of the day, perhaps you should consider speaking to a medical professional.
What Can You Do to Feel Better?
There are a few things you can do before and after a session to make sure your tattoo headache disappears quickly.
- Stay hydrated before and after your session. Avoid alcohol which can complicate the tattooing and healing process.
- Do not take blood thinning medication like Aspirin, but it’s okay to take a pain reliever like Tylenol after your session.
- Eat healthy foods leading up to your session and take snack breaks to keep your blood sugar up.
- Ask your artist for breaks if you need them, or break your tattoo design into smaller and more tolerable sessions.
- Keep yourself distracted so you don’t clench your jaw during your tattoo. This will increase the headache response.
- Take it easy after getting your tattoo, and it’s especially important to get a good night’s sleep.
Normally, this pain will dissipate in a few hours. Should it persist, speak to a medical professional to rule out any complications like allergic reactions or infection.
Our Final Thoughts
Pain is a part of the tattoo experience, and headaches and tattoo flu are one of those weird parts that no one seems to anticipate ahead of the session. Keep yourself hydrated and keep your blood sugar high, relax during your tattoo, and give yourself time to rest following your session. Most of this pain will dissipate a few hours after you’re finished getting your new ink, and is generally nothing to be concerned about.