Man dies after swimming with new tattoo

Story highlights

  • A 31-year-old Texas man got a tattoo and went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico days later
  • Doctors say he developed a bacterial infection and died
  • Experts recommend not bathing or swimming until a new tattoo has healed

(CNN)It all started simply enough: A 31-year-old man went to get a tattoo on his right leg. Beneath an illustration of a cross and hands in prayer, the words "Jesus is my life" were written in cursive.

As tattoo artists will tell you, there are some critically important rules to follow in the hours and days after getting inked. Most important: keeping your new body art clean and covered while the skin has a heightened susceptibility to bacterial infection.
Every time a tattoo gun pierces your skin, the needle is opening a wound -- and another pathway by which germs can enter your body. The larger the tattoo, the more you increase your risk of possible infection.
    After removing the original bandage and gently cleaning a new tattoo, the conventional advice is to apply antibacterial ointment for protection. Continue doing this multiple times a day for the next few days, until skin has ample time to heal.
    The No. 1 thing to avoid while a tattoo heals is soaking it. That means quick showers, no baths and certainly no swimming. Experts warn to avoid prolonged exposure to potentially dirty water while your skin repairs itself. And that's where the story of the 31-year-old man takes a turn for the worse.