Researcher: Want to avoid a cold? Have multiple tattoos

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A new study is receiving a lot of ink for those with multiple tattoos.

According to research published in the March 4 edition of American Journal of Human Biology,  people with multiple tattoos can strengthen their immune response, possibly making it easier to fight off common diseases.

The research suggests:

“Tattooing may stimulate the immune system in a manner similar to a vaccination to be less susceptible to future pathogenic infiltration.”

Researchers at the University of Alabama collected saliva samples from people before and after they received tattoos. The survey included information on how he number of tattoos received and time involved in the tattooing methods. The participants were 24 women and 5 men ages 18 to 47.

Researchers then analyzed the samples, measuring levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines portions of our gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, and cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress an immune response.

“Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defense against some of the common infections we encounter, like colds,” said Christopher Lynn, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama who co-authored the study.

Levels of immunoglobulin A dropped significantly in people receiving their first tattoos. However,  the immunoglobulin A decline was less among those with multiple tattoos, Lynn said.

“People with more tattoo experience have a statistically smaller decrease in immunoglobulin A from before to after,”  Lynn said.

Lynn is not suggesting people run out to receive tattoos to battle  the common cold. But he suggests a person’s first tattoo can make them more, not less, vulnerable to illness.

“They don’t just hurt while you get the tattoo, but they can exhaust you,” Lynn said. “It’s easier to get sick. You can catch a cold because your defenses are lowered from the stress of getting a tattoo.”