According to Tattoo Junkies, the best ways to reduce swelling after a tattoo are to apply ice and keep the area of the tattoo elevated. Taking short showers, keeping the area clean and covered, avoiding abrasive materials that are irritating against the tattoo and shielding the tattoo from exposure to the sun also help to expedite the healing process and prevent complications.
WebMD warns against applying an ice pack directly to the skin as this can cause tissue damage. Instead, cover an ice pack with a towel before applying it to the skin to help bring down swelling, alleviate itching and prevent bruising in the area around the tattoo. Additionally, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine can help to prevent itching and any associated swelling in the days following application of a new tattoo.
Keeping the tattoo clean and following all aftercare instructions help to prevent infection and decrease the chances of other painful side effects, according to WebMD. If there is any allergic reaction, infection or an increase in swelling or pain, it is important to speak with a doctor promptly. Typical signs of infection include skin that is warm to the touch, red streaks on the skin, pus draining from the tattoo or a fever.