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TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA — A study published by researchers from the University of Alabama in early March suggests that receiving multiple tattoos could strengthen a person’s immune system.

In their study, the researchers found that although getting one tattoo may temporarily make a person weaker and more vulnerable to illnesses, getting additional tattoos may actually help a person fight off common infections.

In order to conduct their study, researchers obtained saliva samples from customers at local tattoo parlors in Tuscaloosa and Leeds. From the samples, the researchers measured levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that suppresses immune response, and immunoglobulin A, an antibody that lines mucous membranes throughout our bodies.

The study found that stress from a first tattoo experience caused increased levels of cortisol and a huge decrease in the amount of immunoglobulin A in the body. Lowered concentrations of antibodies results in a weaker immune system.

But people with multiple tattoos only had a slight drop in immunoglobulin A post-tattoo. Researchers suggest this is due to a stronger immune response since the body had become habituated to that level of stress.

Critics argue, however, that the study’s sample size of 29 people is too small to represent the larger population. Furthermore, researchers stressed that they aren’t recommending getting tattoos for the sake of immunity. In fact, the first tattoo can make a person temporarily weaker and more susceptible to disease.

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