Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Is Your Electronic Device or Jewellery Causing a Nickel Allergy?

According to dermatologists at the University of California, cases of allergic contact dermatitis are becoming increasingly common in children. The culprit is often repeated or continuous contact with nickel. This metal is being used in more and more items that both children and adults are exposed to in everyday life. Examples of items that may contain nickel include zippers, earrings, bracelets, watch bands, eyeglass frames, belt buckles, laptops and personal electronic devices such as cell phones, game players and tablets.

A watch band made of nickel can
be irritating for some people, including me.
Public domain illustration by OpenClips
An allergy develops when the body's immune system makes a mistake. Our immune system normally protects us from potentially dangerous invaders such as bacteria and viruses. In an allergic response, the immune system behaves as though a harmless substance is actually dangerous.

Symptoms of a nickel allergy include a rash, itching and the development of scales on the skin. In severe cases there may be blisters or an infection. Home treatments include coating the area with soothing calamine lotion or with petroleum jelly or another moisturizer, but an infection must be treated by a doctor. A severe allergy should also be treated by a doctor, especially if the irritated area spreads beyond the site that contacted the nickel. Doctors can prescribe corticosteroid creams and medications to help. They can also order a skin patch test to make a definite diagnosis of a nickel allergy.

Although the symptoms of a nickel allergy can be treated, the allergy itself can't be cured. Avoiding contact with nickel is necessary to prevent symptoms from recurring or returning. There are several ways to do this. Creating a barrier between the nickel and the skin should work, such as by putting a case on a personal electronic device. Wearing gloves when touching something made of nickel or covering the item with duct tape would also work. Buying hypoallergenic jewellery may be necessary. An additional strategy is to buy products containing another material instead of nickel, such as eyeglass frames made of plastic or titanium or a watch band made of leather instead of nickel. The latter technique is one that I have to use.