I’m always finding new and weird allergies that someone has, whether it’s someone in my family, my friends, or myself. Me – I don’t just have the normal allergies like ragweed or pollen, I have things like wine and scallop combination reactions or an allergy to gold.
My gold allergy started when I was expecting my second daughter. The odd thing was, it was only on my ring finger. I had to take off my wedding and engagement rings, and even after she was born, couldn’t wear them. When I did, I was left with a bright red ring around my finger on the skin. It burned and cracked and itched. Eventually I changed my engagement ring to platinum and now wear my grandmother’s wedding band which is platinum. Another weird aspect of it, though, on my right hand, gold is fine. A few years ago, I tried gold again on my left hand (as I still have a very nice band that is in gold), and the rash came back. So much for that!
I had forgotten about this until the other day when I was with a friend of mine. She held up her hands and said, “Look!” To my surprise, she had the exact same rash on both of her ring fingers, and she described the very same thing that had happened to me. She has worn gold all of her life, but over the past few months, had been getting the same reaction. She had stopped wearing the rings, applied cortisone and tried some other things, and it got a bit better. However, when she tried to wear her rings again, the burning and redness came back with a vengeance, so she has given up on her gold, too.
I remember asking my doctor who didn’t think much of it, just prescribed some cream. The same with my friend. She is looking into getting her rings dipped or sealed or something so she can wear them (she has beautiful jewelry), but for now, she’s jewelry free.
It is always interesting to me how you think you’ve got the strangest allergy around, then come to find out, you’re not the only one. The way I found out about my scallop/wine allergy was a waiter in a restaurant who had the same odd reactions, and we compared notes on foods. He said that’s exactly what happened to him if he had scallops with wine – lightheadedness, dizziness, excessive yawning. Both of us could have each separately, but something about the combination…
Most people are not actually allergic to gold, but to nickel that is added to gold to make it more suitable for wearing as jewelry. However, small percentage of people are indeed affected by allergy to gold itself. (Gold allergy does exist, says scientist)
In a more likely case that you are actually allergic to nickel…
What is a nickel?
Nickel is a common cause of allergic skin rashes. Nickel can be found in materials made of metal such as jewelry (rings, bracelets, necklaces), items that you wear (metal zippers on clothes, bra hooks, clips, hair-pins, buttons, studs, eyeglass frames, , belt buckles), accessories and personal articles (lipstick holders, powder compacts, watch straps, cigarette lighters, razors, keys, key rings, pocket knives, pens), metal items at home (keys, doorknobs, cupboard handles, kitchen utensils, cutlery, toaster, metal teapots, scissors, needles, pins, thimble), silver coins, or items at work (paper clips, typewriter keys, instruments, metal tools).
What causes a nickel allergy?
Prolonged contact of the nickel-containing material directly on your skin causes an allergic rash on the area of contact.
Also, some environmental factors may aggravate a nickel allergy including sweat, humidity, temperature, and the general skin condition of the person. Sweat or moisture of the skin upon contact with the metal item can cause irritation and also trigger the nickel allergy.
The popularity of body piercing has increased cases of allergic contact dermatitis caused by nickel. Those in occupations with relatively heavier exposure to metal, such as hairdressers, dressmakers, cleaning crews, mechanics, and hospital staff, are more likely to develop a nickel allergy.
On most jewelry, nickel is mixed with other metals to create an alloy. Even if the item is claimed to be a 14-karat gold piece or made of pure sterling silver, there might still be a chance that it contains enough nickel to trigger a reaction.
What are the symptoms?
Allergic contact dermatitis is a type of skin rash that appears red, swollen, scaly, and blistered, depending on the severity. The shape of the rash takes the shape of the metal material. A reaction to the metal strap of a watch will leave a red swollen rash around the wrist area. Cashiers who are allergic to silver coins will develop skin rashes on their hands. Those allergic to the metal alloy in some eyeglasses will have red rash marks on areas where the metal part of the eyeglass frame touches the skin. The rashes should clear up once the allergenic material is not in contact anymore with the skin.
How can a nickel allergy be treated?
In the case of an allergic reaction, simply remove the metal item that caused the allergy, and apply a topical cortisone cream or lotion on the rash to make the swelling subside.
A low-nickel diet is usually recommended for those with nickel sensitivity. You can eat anything except canned foods (canned fruits, spaghetti, baked beans, and vegetables), green beans, broccoli, peas, dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate. Recommended foods to eat are proteins and dairy products (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, margarine), carbohydrates (cereals, bread, flour, rice, pasta), cereals and grains, vegetables, (beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, spinach), fresh fruits, tea, coffee, soft drinks, cordials, beer, and wine.
Avoid metals that contain nickel. This is the best way to prevent allergy symptoms. Instead of hassling yourself in nursing an allergic skin rash, use a nickel test kit to check if a metal item contains nickel before you use it.
Allergies to metal in the mouth
People usually know if they have allergies to certain metals, like those used in jewelry.
Unfortunately, the same metals could cause the same problem inside their mouth but such type of allergic reaction often goes undiagnosed as it mimics the gum disease.
When Cate Bennett’s dental problems led to an infection and severe reactions in her mouth, she didn’t know what the cause of her problems was.
Her dental problems also led to an embarrassing moment when eating out with friend. “The first bite I took of the salad, I watched my crown fall out in the salad bowl. And I was so embarrassed,” says Cate.
When Dr. Joseph Kravitz saw Cate’s gum tissue and crowns, he immediately recognized the problem. It turned out that Cate’s allergy to certain metals in jewelry also caused allergic reactions to the metal of the crowns inside her mouth.
Dr. Kravitz said that 80 percent of the people that have skin allergies, they also have the same problems in their mouth.
Researches have showed that 6 percent of men and up to 16 percent of women have allergy to metals that are used in crowns and dentures.
Simplest solution to these dental allergies is to change metal crowns with all ceramic ones and the allergic reaction usually disappear within a day.
Allergies are strange, but it helps to talk about them, because you never know who may have the same thing, and maybe they have found something that works!