Originally Published: January 31, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 23, 2014
Where can I find some information on Nickel Allergies?
Perhaps, you can suggest some treatment.
Nickel is a silvery-white metal that can be mixed with other metals to produce a wide variety of items, including coins, jewelry, bra or girdle fasteners, zippers, snaps, buttons, hair-pins, eyeglass frames, pens, utensils, paper clips, keys, and tools. Talk about a long list of items! If you think you are allergic to nickel, it is great that you asked about prevention and treatment.
A nickel allergy is an allergic reaction that develops after exposure to nickel or nickel-containing items. More specifically, nickel allergy is a contact allergy, which is a skin reaction in response to being exposed to a contact allergen or irritant. Depending on the individual's susceptibility, an allergy-inducing exposure could range from a brief touch to prolonged contact. The affected area is usually restricted to the site of contact, although it could also be found on other parts of the body.
The degree of allergy reaction also varies by person. A nickel allergy can occur at any age, and typically manifests a few days after first contact. Signs of a nickel allergy include eczema (allergic contact dermatitis), which appears as an itchy, dry, crusty, and/or red skin rash with watery blisters. Once a nickel allergy has developed, it usually signifies a chronic (lifelong) condition. In that case, it is certainly best to steer clear of that nickel!
If you suspect that you have a nickel allergy, here are some precautions for you to consider. For clothing, choose fasteners made of plastic, coated or painted metal, or some other material. A nickel allergy does not mean you can no longer wear jewelry — you just have to be much more selective in your choices. Make sure that any jewelry you wear is either nickel-free, stainless steel, surgical grade stainless steel, titanium, 18 karat yellow gold, sterling silver, copper and/or platinum. As nickel allergies are common, some jewelry packaging will state that the jewelry is nickel free.
Regarding treatment, if you are having a serious allergy, it is best to see your health care provider. Columbia students can make an appointment with Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC). The following remedies may help you during itchy times, but are only temporary solutions to a nickel allergy:
- Topical steroids, which must be used as directed by your dermatologist
- Compresses made of vinegar diluted with water, which help dry up blisters
- Emollient creams, which help alleviate the dryness and itch of dermatitis when applied frequently
Getting tested for nickel allergy by a dermatologist or allergist is best for assessing whether or not you are allergic to nickel allergy. Hopefully this information helps you stay allergy free!