When people get a tattoo, they might think they become cooler or that their pain tolerance improves. However, it turns out something else might improve as well, and this could surprise you. Getting some fresh ink might also boost your immune system.
According to a recent study from the University of Alabama, people who have more than one tattoo are likely to have a stronger immune system than those who don't. The researchers discovered that people with a few tattoos tended to be more likely to be able to fight off one condition in particular – the common cold. That's right – if you're rocking a few pieces of ink, you might have a lower chance of catching this pesky illness during the colder months of the year.
"When people get a new tattoo, the amount of immonoglobulin A drastically decreases, especially if it's their first tattoo."
Searching for answers
The study's authors came to this conclusion after visiting a few local tattoo parlors and asking patrons for their participation. Once they gathered a few volunteers, they asked people how many tattoos they had and how long each tattoo took to get inked. All of the people, 29 in total, questioned by the researchers were at the parlors to receive a new tattoo. The participants gave a saliva sample before and after they got their tattoos. Once researchers had the samples they needed, they tested the saliva for an antibody known as immonoglobulin A. This particular antibody is known for battling common colds as well as cortisol, a stress hormone used during fight-or-flight scenarios.
The findings revealed that when people get a new tattoo, the amount of immonoglobulin A drastically decreases, especially if it's their first tattoo. The researchers hypothesized this drop occurs because the body is using the antibody to battle any potential infections at the tattoo site. However, if people already have a history with tattoo needles and have already gotten a few tattoos, the drop in this antibody wasn't nearly as drastic. Because of this interesting result, the study authors believe that people with a few more pieces of ink tend to have stronger immune systems.
"After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium," lead researcher and an associate professor of anthropology, Christopher Lynn, stated to Bustle. "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."
An unexpected strength
Essentially, based on this theory, the more tattoos a person has, the greater his or her immune system might be. Yet this shouldn't inspire you to run to the nearest tattoo parlor if you're looking to avoid the common cold next year, or tend to get it more often than others. While the research did suggest that people with tattoos have stronger immune systems, the study authors plan to conduct more tests with a larger sample size to determine if they will get similar results. Conversely, there might be no correlation between a strong immune system and people with tattoos, it might just be a fluke.
It also might be interesting to test whether getting your tattoos removed strengthens your immune system as well. As some people know, getting a tattoo removed can be much more painful than actually getting one. Despite the pain associated with laser tattoo removal, it's arguably more popular than getting the tattoo itself. Approximately 10 percent of all Americans have tattoos. Of that group, approximately 50 percent are looking to get them removed. Like getting a tattoo, the skin can become scabbed, so there may be a similar effect.
For now, those with a couple tattoos can enjoy the idea of being immune to the dreaded cold.