Nickel is a metal with a silvery-white color that is used in the production of many items because it can resist corrosion. It’s primarily an alloy metal and is added to other elements to increase strength and toughness. Unfortunately, there are many who have an allergy to this common material. An allergy can develop when the immune system decides that this benign metal is an intruder trying to invade the body. It’ll produce chemicals to fight the intruder, which can cause a reaction in the person’s body. This is often how allergic reactions happen with allergens like pollen or dust too.
Where is Nickel Found?
- Stainless steel objects
- Plating on plumbing fixtures
- Cell phones
- Paper clips
- Clothing parts like snap buttons, zippers and belt buckles
- Eyeglass frames
Signs and Symptoms of an Allergy
The most common sign of a nickel reaction is a rash on the skin. This skin reaction can occur up to 48 hours after being exposed to the metal. This can make it difficult to determine the cause of the rash, or where the nickel came from that caused the problem. Along with a skin rash with raised bumps, it could cause redness with changes in the skin’s color. It could darken considerably. Dry patches can develop that are incredibly itchy too. Blisters are an extreme reaction to nickel exposure but they do happen rarely.
The symptoms of a nickel allergy are the same as anyone who has an allergic contact dermatitis reaction. The allergic reaction should only show on the areas of the skin that the metal touched, which does help narrow down the cause of the reaction.
The rash can last up to 4 weeks after the person has been exposed. In some people with a severe case of nickel allergy, the metal might cause respiratory problems. This could include a runny nose, sneezing or an asthmatic reaction.
Nickel Allergy Diagnosis
A primary care physician or specialist like a dermatologist will be able to diagnose a nickel allergy. The doctor will take a history to find out if there were new medications, foods or products you’ve used recently. If a nickel allergy is the suspect, the doctor will use a patch test. It’ll only cause a minor reaction if nickel is the culprit.
Like most allergies, there is no cure for a nickel allergy. It’s important to avoid nickel completely. This is especially true because a nickel allergy can grow over repeated exposure, so that the symptoms are worse each time a person touches nickel.
The rash can be treated with a nonsteroidal cream from your doctor. Over-the-counter itch creams can be effective as well. If there’s drainage or worsening redness that is relieved after a few weeks, you might need to see a doctor because of infection.
Avoiding the metal is the only way to prevent a reaction. It’s surprising how many products have hidden nickel inside it. This metal is used in a variety of products, but jewelry seems to be the worst. Even those products that don’t mention nickel in their manufacturing process can have trace amounts of nickel and cause a reaction.
One of the best ways to avoid nickel in jewelry is to purchase jewelry that specifically states that they use medical grade titanium and hypoallergenic metals like Blomdahl USA. Only when a company declares that they don’t have nickel can it be guaranteed.
Nickel allergies are not one that can cause serious medical conditions or threaten a person’s life, but it can be incredibly uncomfortable when the person is exposed. Limiting exposure by being vigilant about the metal coming into contact with the skin is the only way to avoid an allergic reaction.