Nickel allergy occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to substances in nickel. Nickel is a hard, bright, silver-white metal that is found in soil. This metal is a common component of silver coins, belt buckles, jewelry, and many other everyday items.
Patients with nickel allergy typically develop a skin rash called contact dermatitis after exposure to the metal. Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become red, itchy, and swollen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the more exposure an individual has to nickel-containing products, the more likely the patient will become allergic to nickel. Patients can become allergic to nickel at any age.
There is currently no available data on the incidence rates of nickel allergy. Historically, nickel allergy has affected more women than men. Researchers believe that this is because women are more likely to get their ears pierced. Nickel is present in earrings unless the jewelry is hypoallergenic, stainless steel, solid gold, or sterling silver. However, as body piercing continues to gain popularity, an increasing number of males are reported to have nickel allergies.
Although there is no cure for allergies, antihistamines, corticosteroid creams and ointments, cool compresses, hydrocortisone creams, and moisturizing creams may help reduce allergy symptoms. In general, symptoms may last anywhere from a few hours to days.
The best way to prevent symptoms from recurring is to avoid exposure to nickel. Whenever possible, patients should purchase nickel-free items. Patients can purchase a nickel-testing kit at their local pharmacies to help them identify products that contain nickel.
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how to identify nickel products
If a patient is unsure whether a product contains metal, they may call the manufacturer.
Patients can purchase a nickel testing kit (such as Spot Test for Nickel Kit™) at local pharmacies. The kit contains two bottles of clear fluid:
dimethylglyoxime and ammonium hydroxide. The patient applies one drop of each solution to the object in question. Then a cotton ball or Q-tip is rubbed on the object. If the cotton ball or Q-tip turns pink, the object contains nickel.