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Families travelling overseas these school holidays are being warned of the dangers of some temporary henna tattoos, which can cause painful skin reactions and permanent scarring, particularly in children.


House Call Doctor’s Dr Ryan Harvey said parents need to be cautious of ‘black henna’ because it contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a hair dye that can cause allergic reactions, open sores and scarring.


“Unlike here in Australia, there may not be any regulation of what goes into the dye, and children in particular can have extreme reactions that can cause blistering, open sores and a chemical burn,” Dr Harvey said.


“While many parents think getting a temporary henna tattoo is harmless holiday fun, it can lead to permanent scarring”.


Photos posted online show the extreme reaction in some people, and plenty of Australians have commented on a post on House Call Doctor’s Facebook page saying they and their children suffered similar skin damage from black henna tattoos they had done in popular holiday destinations like Bali.


“It looks like the patient has suffered an extreme allergic reaction to something in the dye and it’s caused a chemical burn to the skin,” Dr Harvey said. 


“Treatment would be to immediately run the area under cool water to treat the chemical burn.  If it is an allergic reaction, the patient may need antihistamine, a topical steroid cream or a steroid tablet to treat the burn.


“It depends on the extent of the burn but if it covers a large percentage of the body, particularly in children, they may need to be observed in hospital, so they don’t go into shock. Keep up your fluid intake and stay hydrated because all the fluid in your body will rush to the burn site.”


Some of the symptoms to look for include:

·        Discomfort

·        Burning, tingling or a painful sting

·        Swelling

·        Skin redness

·        Blisters


Natural henna, as opposed to black henna, does not contain PPD and is made of plant-based ingredients. It is never black and has a more orange colour with a red or brown tint.


House Call Doctor is Queensland’s largest after-hours healthcare provider, operating from Cairns to the Tweed.


Images sourced online showing scarring from black henna tattoos can be viewed here