Having lots of tattoos could help you beat a winter cold, new study suggests
That ink could be doing more good than you think.
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, multiple tattoos could strengthen a person's immunity, helping them fend off the peskiest of winter ailments - the common cold.
The University of Alabama research suggests that the repeated stress of frequent tattooing could trick the body into improving its immunological responses.
"Tattooing may stimulate the immune system in a manner similar to a vaccination to be less susceptible to future pathogenic inﬁltration," the study said, comparing it to muscles adapting to repeated workouts.
However this theory relies on safety in numbers as receiving a single tattoo can, at least temporarily, lower your resistance, associate professor of anthropology Dr Christopher Lynn said.
"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.
"After the stress response, your body returns to an equilibrium. 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."
Saliva samples were taken from 29 volunteers before and after they were tattooed, nine of which had been inked for the very first time.
Scientists then tested the samples for levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines portions of our gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, and cortisol, a stress hormone known to suppress immune response.
"Immunoglobulin A is a front line of defence against some of the common infections we encounter, like colds," Lynn said.
Results showed a significant decrease in immunoglobulin A for first-timers, and a smaller drop for those already inked, suggesting the latter's immune systems were hardier when it came to repeated stresses.
However not all experts are sold on the study, with some questioning the small sample size.
"I would not encourage anyone to get a tattoo for the sake of immune system benefit," Dr Sylvie Stacy, an Alabama physician, told the Huffington Post. "Getting a tattoo carries significant risks - including infection, scarring, and potential adverse psychological effects. It's very unlikely that these risks are outweighed by any boost in immune system response."