Could getting inked help you avoid the common cold? New research suggests just that.

For the past couple years, a trio of researchers from the University of Alabama have been studying the link between tattoos and the common cold. They argue that when your body gets used to a type of stress, it can start to adjust to it, strengthening your immune system.

“You have this anecdotal information from tattooist who say, yeah, I get exposed to all kinds of people and I hardly ever get sick, there’s this idea that in the tattoo community that tattooing actually stimulates the immune system,” said UA associate professor of anthropology Dr. Christopher Lynn.

The trio conducted their research in local tattoo shops around the Tuscaloosa and Leeds area, testing 29 people, mainly women. Lynn said they measured tattoo experience, asking them how many tattoos they’ve had, how many tattoo sessions they’ve had, how many hours did it take them to get tattooed. Larger tattoos take longer, with multiple sessions and extended recovery time.

Lynn compared the experience to someone studying for a stressful test.

“They actually get a cold right after, and they’ve linked that back to stress suppressing immune response and allowing the cold to get in,” he said.

Lynn suggested the process of tattooing can have similar effects, unless the action is repeated constantly.

“So we found that people who have lots of tattoos and lots of tattoo experience seem to get used to that stress, so they have less of an immune drop while they’re getting tattooed, which is important,” he said.

Lynn said he hopes to expand the research throughout the U.S., and to widen the field of study, he would like to expand his research to countries where people get tattoos in unsanitary places.

His next step will take him to Samoa, where tattoos are a large part of the culture.

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