Having a tattoo on the chest, abdomen or back not advisable | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

President Duterte shows off the tattoo on his arm. —MALACAÑANGPHOTO
President Duterte shows off the tattoo on his arm.—MALACAÑANGPHOTO

A few months ago, we wrote about the potential adverse health and other side effects of having a tattoo (“Why having a tattoo might not be the coolest idea,” PDI, July 11, 2017). But after no less than President Duterte displayed a rose tattoo on his arm, I figure there would be a beeline to tattoo parlors.

I hope we can have a law prohibiting the tattooing of minors who may have themselves inked on impulse, or simply out of a capricious whim, because someone they idolize like Mr. Duterte has one.
Since we don’t have such a law yet, our tattoo artists can take it upon themselves to make sure that their clients are really psychologically mature to have a tattoo done for the right reasons.

It should be regarded as a form of cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeons are enjoined not to proceed with whatever aesthetic procedure patients request if the patients are deemed psychologically immature and unstable. There must be a valid reason for having the procedure done.

The same thing should be adopted for tattoos. Perhaps the Department of Health can set guidelines, not only on safety and hygienic measures, but also on the appropriateness and extent of the tattooing.
Having one’s whole body and extremities inked with all sorts of tattoos may be an unnecessary self-allowed physical abuse, and a blatant violation of the stewardship responsibility we have in preventing anything that can potentially harm our God-given body.

I appeal to Mr. Duterte to issue a cautionary disclaimer or qualification, particularly to our young people about getting a tattoo. They can think of other ways they can emulate the President other than having a similar rose tattoo inked on their arm.

For medical reasons, it is important for certain parts of the body, specifically the chest, abdomen and the back to be free of tattoos. Should the person require important diagnostic tests like a CT or MRI scan to diagnose or evaluate a critical illness, it would be very difficult if these parts are studded with tattoos.

Tattoo pigments could interfere with the quality of the radiologic images, and would render the interpretation of the tests challenging. The distortions in the images might even mislead the physician, resulting in a wrong diagnosis and treatment.

Donating blood

Can someone with tattoos still donate blood?
According to Dr. Thad Hinunangan, a pathologist-in-training at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, potential blood donors with recent piercing or tattoos need to wait at least a year before they can donate blood. This is because of the risk of blood-borne diseases due to the tattooing.

But after a year, provided they pass the usual screening for hepatitis, syphilis, etc., they can already donate blood.


A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that blood donors have 88-percent less risk of suffering from a heart attack and stroke. It was suggested that blood flow is better in these donors because the blood donation made their blood less viscous or thick.

Thad explains that our red blood cells (RBC) have a life span of 120 days. “Once mature, red cells become senescent or old, these cells become trapped in the sinusoids of the spleen and are broken down.

“Meanwhile, erythroblasts (cells which give rise to RBC) in the bone marrow begin to mature until they form mature erythrocytes or red blood cells,” says Thad.

The life cycle of destruction and renewal will continue regardless of whether one donates blood or not. Blood donation can help make this cycle more efficient. However, eager donors have to wait a minimum of eight weeks before they can donate again.

And yes, even smokers can donate blood, provided again they pass all screening tests.

There are some people who may not donate blood aside from those with a recent tattooing. Those who have fever and most likely have an acute infection should first recover from their infection.

If one is diagnosed to have Hepatitis B or C, or tested positive for HIV, he or she should never donate blood. A previous history of Hepatitis A is not an absolute contraindication, according to Thad.

How about those who had dengue infection? If one had blood transfusions, one has to wait at least a year. Otherwise, one can donate blood after a month of recovery from dengue.

Thad gives the following general criteria for blood donors:

1) All donors must weigh at least 50 kg, and must meet the cutoff for hemoglobin, which is 125mg/l. Females with a weight of 46-49 kg may still donate blood in a smaller quantity than the usual 450 ml per donation.

2) Age should be 18 years old and above, without a maximum age. Parental consent is needed for those below 18 years, and senior citizens may actually donate blood as long as they are deemed fit during physical exam.

3) Oral temperature should be 37.5°C or with no fever.

4) Blood pressure should be below 180 mmHg systolic and below 100 mmHg diastolic. Hypotensive patients (patients with blood pressure below normal) are likewise prohibited from donating blood.

5) Pulse should be 50-100 beats per minute.


After blood donation, one must be adequately hydrated with water or juices and have a good meal. Some think that eating balut (duck egg) can revitalize one after donating blood, but this is really not necessary.

“The most important thing is to remain seated or reclined for 15 minutes after donation and not standing or walking abruptly because of the risk of orthostatic hypotension (a decrease in the blood pressure during a change in position, usually from supine or sitting, to standing), posing a risk for fall injury,” advises Thad.