Nickel allergy can be caused by wearing jewelry and more particularly by body piercing jewels. Some people may develop allergy to nickel if their skin comes into direct contact with the element. It is one of the major reasons for getting contact dermatitis. Nickel is used in everyday items like coins, cell-phones and even on eyeglass frames. Nickel allergy can affect individuals of any age group. It develops after a person is repeatedly exposed to items that contain nickel. There are treatments available for reducing the symptoms. But it is wise to avoid using nickel in future, if you have developed nickel allergy.
The allergic reaction from nickel starts mostly within a day or two after exposure to nickel. It can happen when you are wearing a new jewel or pierced your ear or nose for using a nickel ring. The allergic symptoms will appear on the place where the metal touches your body.
Initially there will be itching (moderate to severe), followed by redness and change in color of the skin. Then rashes will start appearing on the skin accompanied by burning sensation. In case of severe allergy, blisters or bumps will be formed with pus which will ooze out bad smelling fluid like discharge. It also forms dry patches on the skin where the metal touches your body.
Nickel allergy develops on some people who are allergic to the metal. It is the response of the immune system to protect your body against infection. If you are allergic to nickel you will also develop allergic reaction to metals like cobalt or palladium. The immune system becomes sensitive to the element and causes rash and blisters with itching and pain.
Exact cause of such allergic reaction is not known and why it affects only some people is not clear. Generally allergic reaction takes place when the body is exposed to the metal for some days. Sensitivity to nickel can be inherited. Some of the sources of nickel exposure are wearing jewelry, body piercings, watchbands, bracelets, belt buckles, and frames for eyeglasses and using keys that contain nickel.
Who are at risk?
People who have ear piercing or body piercing done with nickel jewels would commonly get nickel allergy. If your workplace involves working with nickel throughout the day you may develop allergic reaction. Individuals who are employed in food industries and work as domestic cleaner can get exposed to nickel utensils.
Women are fonder of wearing jewels of many metals and hence they are likely to develop nickel allergy than men. If you have family history of people who are nickel allergic then you have increased chance for developing allergy.
Your doctor will look for symptoms of rashes and bumps on your body. He will study the appearance of skin that is in contact with the metal. He may order of patch test or allergy test or refer your case to allergy specialist. In the patch testing method, small quantities of allergic metals are applied on your skin and covered with patches. It will remain on your skin for few days to check whether the skin under the patch has developed inflammation.
Once the body develops nickel allergy or allergy for any other metal it becomes sensitive to that metal. Hence the best way is to avoid exposing your skin to that metal. If you happen to use nickel again on the same part of the skin, it will show more severe symptoms second time. Medications like topical steroid creams like Temovate, betamethasone and diprolene are given for reducing the symptoms. Non steroidal creams like Elidel, protopic are effective in reducing rashes. For some people oral steroids are also prescribed along with topical creams, if the rashes are seen on large area of the skin. For managing itching, oral antihistamines like cetrizine or allegra are prescribed.
Home Remedies :
You can apply calamine lotion on the affected area of the skin to manage itching. Moisturize the skin regularly to make it soft so that the skin develops natural barrier for allergic metals like nickel. For blisters and itching you can apply wet compression over the affected area. Place the wet compress for 10-15 minutes and repeat this process many times. Over the counter medications like hydrocortisone is effective for controlling rashes and itching.
The best way to avoid nickel allergy is to not use jewelry or any other thing that contains the metal coating. Avoid contacting with the metal directly. While buying jewelry make sure that it does not contain nickel in any form. Hypoallergenic metals can be used in the place of surgical grade steel jewels.
While making body piercing, make sure that you are choosing reputable studio where they have valid license and use sterile instruments for piercing. Instead of wearing watchbands made of nickel you can choose leather or plastic items that are non allergic. In case your workplace warrants touching nickel in any form, you can wear hand gloves to avoid contact directly with the metal.