The next time when someone remarks on your tattoos, you should tell them that they are a form of self-care and self-medication. According to one small study conducted last year by a trio of scholars at the University of Alabama, having multiple tattoos may help you acquire a better-than-than average immunity.
To come to such a conclusion, the researchers studied 24 women and five men who were between 18 and 47 years old, as well as before and after they got tattoos. They measured their immune function with the use of saliva samples before and after the tattoo session, taking into consideration the number of tattoos that a participant had, the total amount of hours they had spent getting tattooed, as well as the number of tattoo sessions they had gone through and when they had received the first tattoo.
Then, the saliva samples were analyzed for levels of immunoglobulin A, which plays a critical role in our immunity function, and cortisol, which is a stress hormone that helps suppress the immune response.
The professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, who was also the co-author of the study, named Christopher Lynn said:
“Immunoglobulin A is a key element in the defense against some of the common infections we encounter, such as colds.”
The people getting their first tattoo did not have the same response as those that have multiple tattoos. Lyn said that getting a tattoo for the first time may lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching the springtime cold. He added:
“They do not just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can also exhaust you. It is easier to get sick. You can catch a cold as your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo.”
He continued, saying that the response of the body to tattooing is similar to the one experienced when exercising in the gym while out of shape. The muscles become sore, but if you continue, the soreness fades following subsequent workouts. The same principle also applies when you have multiple tattoos.
However, there is still research needed to draw more meaningful conclusions between multiple tattoos and the immune system. Some people thought that the study and the buzz it generated are misleading.
“It is a stupid suggestion that people go out and get tattoos for improving their immunity. I do not think that anyone is going to do that, but that suggestion by some news pieces is a little embarrassing. I am going to be the first person to admit that this is not life or death news. I just think that it is still interesting news without having to overstate it.”
He also believes the news coverage around his study is ultimately a good thing. He said:
“I’m really happy people are interested. I hope it will motivate students and other researchers to realize that you can study pop culture from a scientific perspective and to improve on what we did, as well as learn something about human nature. And, if all it does is shift public sentiment away from the associating tattoos with teen pregnancy and drug use, that is OK too.”