According to board-certified dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis: a skin rash or irritation caused by touching an allergen. In fact, it is estimated that more than 18 percent of people in North America are allergic to nickel, including 11 million children in the U.S., making it a widespread public health concern.
Nickel Allergy: How to Avoid Exposure and Reduce Symptoms
“If you have a nickel allergy, the best way to avoid symptoms is to avoid objects containing nickel,” said board-certified dermatologist Jenny Eileen Murase, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. “However, this can be challenging, since nickel is present in many common household items.”
To avoid exposure and reduce symptoms, Dr. Murase recommends the following tips:
1. Choose jewelry carefully. It’s common for a nickel allergy to develop from wearing jewelry containing nickel. Earrings, earring backs and watches are some of the biggest culprits; however necklaces, rings and bracelets containing nickel can also trigger symptoms. To avoid exposure, only wear jewelry that is nickel-free, hypoallergenic, or made from metals such as surgical-grade stainless steel, 18-, 22-, or 24-karat yellow gold, pure sterling silver, or platinum. In addition, wear watchbands made of leather, cloth or plastic.
2. Check your clothing. It’s also common for belt buckles, bra hooks, and metal buttons, zippers and snaps to contain nickel. If your clothing has these, replace them with ones that are plastic or plastic-coated. You can also create a barrier between these items and your skin by coating the items with clear nail polish. However, the nail polish will need to be re-applied often.