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Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis — an itchy rash that appears where your skin touches a usually harmless substance.
It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel. Other than that, 1% to 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These types of reactions can be localized reactions that are limited to one area. However, they can also be more generalized and affect other more distant parts of the body.
Nickel is a silver-colored metal found naturally in the environment. It’s often mixed with other metals to make various items, including:
A nickel allergy is the body’s adverse immune response when someone comes into contact with a product containing nickel. Normally, the immune system defends the body against harmful substances, such as viruses and bacteria, to ward off illnesses. But if you have a nickel allergy, your immune system mistakes nickel for a dangerous intruder. In response, your body reacts in an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction to nickel is one of the most common causes of an itchy skin rash.
In rare cases, a nickel allergy can also lead to respiratory problems, including:
Manufacturers often use nickel and cobalt to alloy with other metals. You’ll find these metals in lower-quality jewelry such as costume jewelry.
But you’ll need to look beyond jewelry for potential sources of metal. Metal can hide out in products and devices where you’d least expect it. Here are six surprising sources:
Your doctor may suspect metal hypersensitivities based on a combination of your personal history and your signs and symptoms.To determine possible causes of metal exposure, your doctor may ask if you have any type of implants, if you smoke, or if you regularly use any cosmetics.
A patch test is often performed if a nickel allergy is suspected. During the patch test, your doctor applies a small amount of nickel over a patch. The patch is then placed on your skin.
There’s no cure for a nickel allergy. As with other allergies, the best treatment is to avoid the allergen.
However, your doctor may prescribe one of the following medications to help reduce the skin irritation caused by a nickel allergy. If the dermatitis is more significant, the doctor can also prescribe corticosteroid creams and ointments to reduce the local inflammation. The doctor can also prescribe oral antihistamines to further reduce the allergic reaction.
The best strategy to prevent a nickel allergy from developing is to avoid prolonged exposure to items containing nickel. If you already have a nickel allergy, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with the metal.
Using metals less likely to cause a reaction include:
Be certain to choose a studio that follows these rules. Visit a studio before getting a piercing to make sure that the piercer provides a clean, professional environment. Also, check to be sure the studio uses sterile, nickel-free or surgical-grade stainless steel needles in sealed packages.Check that the studio only sells hypoallergenic jewelry and can provide documentation of metal content of the products for sale.
Look for safer substitutes for common nickel-containing items:
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