Henna tattoo reaction sends boy from Ein Nakuba to hospital

The boy went on a school trip to Acre, where he chose to get a "Make Peace" henna tattoo in the market. The next day, both arms began to swell and redden.

May 24, 2017 17:09
1 minute read.
Hadassah Medical Center

Hadassah Medical Center. (photo credit: WWW.HADASSAH.ORG.IL)


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A 12-year-old boy from the Arab village of Ein Nakuba outside Jerusalem was treated on Wednesday for a severe reaction to temporary henna tattoos.

The boy, taken to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, was taken to the emergency room with sharp pains in the area of the tattoos on his arms, which said “Make Peace” and had the image of a spider.

Dr. Leah Sarna Kahan, who received him, realized that the problem could have developed into a severe skin infection.

He was taken to hospital three days after he had the tattoos made on his skin. His arms were very swollen and red. After diagnosis, he was given antibiotics and steroids by infusion. The doctor said that allergic reactions occur in one out of 40 cases of henna tattoos. There is no danger to life, but the condition is very painful and can cause damage to the skin.

The boy went on a school trip to Acre, where he chose to have a henna tattoo in the market. The next day, both arms began to swell and redden.

Dr. Yuval Tal, deputy head of the clinical immunology and allergy department at the hospital said the phenomenon is well known because many people undergo red-orange henna tattoos in this area. To give it a black tone, a chemical called PPD (paraphenylenediamine) is added, and this substance may cause an allergic reaction.

When the colored image fades, it can make the skin lighter. In more serious cases, it can require infusions of drugs, as in this case, Tal said.

This may also occur in people who dye their hair with a dark color; if so, they should undergo skin tests to find out what they’re allergic to, said Tal. The Health Ministry warns against using these substances but does not prohibit them. “Therefore, I recommended that parents stay alert to any preliminary reaction hours or days after henna dyes are applied. If there is a problem, go immediately for medical help,” he concluded.

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