Rashes often occur on the earlobes or wrists, because many earrings and watches contain nickel. The reaction may occur immediately after contact, or it may develop only after repeated exposure. But nickel can be found in many everyday items, such as coins, zippers, cellphones and eyeglass frames.
When a person with a nickel allergy comes into contact with the metal, their immune system mistakenly believes that it is causing harm. The immune system produces a hormone called histamine in response. This can cause a rash to develop, as well as other symptoms.
Nickel Allergy: Some Facts
- The medical community is unsure why people develop allergies to nickel.
- An increasing number of people in the United States are allergic to nickel.
- This allergy is more common in women than men.
- The allergy can appear at any age.
- The only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with products containing nickel.
Nickel Allergy: Symptoms
An allergic reaction usually occurs within 24–48 hours of contact with nickel.
- a rash
- reddening of the skin
- dry patches that may resemble a burn
- blisters, when the reaction is severe
Often, the reaction will only affect the area of skin that touched the item containing nickel.
If a person with an allergy consumes food containing nickel, they may have similar symptoms, including:
- extreme itching
- skin that is thick, raw, or scaly
- skin that is dry or rough
- discolored skin
- skin that feels warm and tender to the touch
- fluid-filled blisters
If an allergic reaction to nickel is very severe, it can cause inflammation of the nasal passages or an asthma attack.
Nickel Allergy: Treatments
There is no cure for an allergy to nickel. The best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid the allergen.
Several medications can help to treat a rash that results from an allergic reaction. These medicines control inflammation and reduce the body’s histamine response.
Common medications include:
- corticosteroid creams
- nonsteroidal creams
- oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone
- oral antihistamines, such as fexofenadine
Antihistamines are available over the counter and can be bought online. Mild-strength corticosteroid creams are also available online. A doctor may prescribe stronger versions of these medications.
Some home remedies may help to soothe and calm the skin. These include:
- calamine lotion
- hydrating body lotion
- cool, wet compresses
Seek advice from a doctor as soon as possible if treatments do not relieve symptoms or make them worse.
If reactions to nickel are severe, see a doctor as soon as possible. Severe symptoms may include pain or blisters that leak pus, and they can indicate an infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.