Nickel Allergy

By staff

If you develop rashes on the area where your skin came in contact with metal, no doubt that you have allergic contact dermatitis to nickel. Allergic contact dermatitis is the skin’s allergic reaction to something it touches. The allergy manifests as an itchy red rash that is not only painful but can make you self-conscious as well, especially if the rash is in a place that is impossible to conceal.

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.

1 Comment »

Actually, this article leaves out many important points. Nickel is not the only metal to cause a problem, there can be a host of “other” metals in fine jewelry, copper being one of the main culprits of rash. Most precious metals are at best 58.5% pure, so that leaves 41.5% “other” metals to irritate your skin. And the bigger problem is that manufacturers don’t have to disclose what those other metals are!

September 23rd, 2010 | 2:15 pm
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