There are all kinds of reasons to look before you leap into the ocean.
After all, as pollution takes its toll, these waters are growing increasingly toxic not only to marine life, but to the humans who ply them.
Likewise, there are lots of reasons to be wary of getting a tattoo — from the possibility of infection to the mysterious origins of the ink itself.
But it’s hard to imagine a cautionary tale that combines both. Until, that is, a study surfaced in BMJ Case Reports.
The medical journal describes the case of a man who went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico immediately after getting a tattoo.
The 31-year-old, whose name has not been published, managed to contract a skin disease called Vibrio vulnificus.
He wouldn’t be the first person to fall prey to the sea-borne bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it causes 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths every year, often from contaminated beaches, and even certain shellfish.
But what makes the man's deadly dip especially chilling is that the study authors — Nicholas Hendren, Senthil Sukumar and Craig Glazer of UT Southwestern Medical Center — suggest it may have been avoidable.
The fresh ink, essentially an open wound, made the swimmer particularly vulnerable to the flesh-eating bacteria. In turn, the infection led to septic shock, and ultimately the patient’s death a couple of days later.
The researchers are quick to point out the man had liver disease, which would have also made him vulnerable to bacteria.
The common thread here? Tattoos take days, even weeks to heal. Until then, they weaken us, much like a disease.
And that leads to a decision no one ever thought they would have to make: ink or swim?