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Nickel Allergy Information

Author: Disabled World

Published: 2010-11-13

Synopsis and Key Points:

An allergy to nickel is a reaction that can develop after even brief contact with the metal.

Main Digest

Nickel is a type of silvery-white metal that is commonly mixed with other types of metal in order to produce alloys.

As an example, nickel-iron, something that is used to manufacture stainless-steel, is one of the more common types of nickel alloys. Other types of nickel alloys are used to make everything from costume jewelry to coins; zippers, buttons, bra or girdle fasteners, hair-pins, eyeglass frames, pens, studs, paper clips, tools, keys, and more. Nickel may be bound tightly in stainless-steel, particularly surgical stainless-steel.

Allergy to nickel is something that grown to be more important recently, mainly due to the introduction of inexpensive jewelry where the underlying metal is comprised of nickel. Ten-to-twelve percent of the female population and six-percent of the male population are believed to experience an allergy to nickel. The allergy is in fact not caused by the nickel itself, but by the nickel salts that are formed by sweat in contact with the nickel. The allergy is always accompanied by corrosion of the item made of nickel. Nickel, while common in jewelry and other home items, can also be found in workplace environments.

An allergy to nickel is a reaction that can develop after even brief contact with the metal. Some people take longer amounts of time to develop an allergy to nickel. Ear piercing, and presumably body piercing, something women are more likely to pursue than men although this is changing, has put them at a higher risk of becoming allergic to nickel. The degree of reaction a person has varies among people. Nickel allergy is a contact allergy that can affect people of any age and usually appears within a few days after contact as eczema that appears dry/crusty, itchy, red in pigmentation and may be accompanied by watery blisters. The affected area of the person's body is usually localized to the site of contact with the nickel object, although it may also be found on other areas. Once someone has a nickel allergy it is often a chronic condition that affects them for the rest of their life.

The degree of allergy a person experiences can vary. Some people develop dermatitis after even a very brief contact with items that contain nickel. Others experience an allergic reaction after years of contact with nickel. Still others experience an intermittent or persistent eczema on their feet or hands. The eczema is commonly a blistering type referred to as, 'pompholyx.' There have been suggestions made that dyshidrotic hand dermatitis is caused by nickel in a person's diet. There is no possible way to avoid the consumption of nickel apparently; it is present in the majority of food items today and a low-nickel diet rarely helps.

A dermatologist can test a person for an allergy to nickel through, 'patch testing.' Patch tests are a form of safe skin test that involve application of very tiny amounts of a number of suspected contact allergens to the skin of a person's upper back using hypoallergenic tape. The amounts of the allergens are so low they will not cause irritation or reactions in people who are not allergic, yet are high enough to cause a response in those who are sensitive to the allergens. The allergens remain in contact with the person's skin for a period of forty-eight hours and are then examined. People who are allergic to nickel or other contact allergens experience a reaction to them. If; however, the patch test produces an unclear result the person may need additional examination, or that the cause of the person's reaction is something the dermatologist is unable to determine. If a person is allergic to nickel the best thing to do is avoid contact with it whenever possible.

To avoid contact with nickel, choose fasteners made of plastic, coated or painted metal, or another material such as nylon. A nickel allergy does not mean a person cannot wear jewelry, they have to become more selective in their choice of jewelry. When selecting jewelry to wear, make sure it is hypoallergenic, made of stainless-steel, is at least twelve carat gold, made of sterling silver, or made of polycarbonate plastic.

If you have to wear earrings that are made of nickel, protect yourself with plastic covers that are made for earring studs. Apply a coating of clear nail polish to the earrings if you cannot obtain plastic covers for them. Due to the fact that sweat dissolves nickel, some people have tried to apply talcum power to areas of their body that come in contact with nickel items with the hope of reducing their exposure - something that does not work.

The following forms of treatments offer only temporary solutions to nickel allergy and do not desensitize a person to nickel. Topical steroids, applied as directed by a dermatologist, may help reduce the reaction. Compresses made of Burow's solution that is diluted with water can help to dry up blisters, and emollient creams can assist in alleviating dryness and itching related to dermatitis if they are applied frequently.

Whether or not a person is allergic to nickel it is important to remember that when they choose to have their ears pierced, or other parts of their body, have it done with a stainless-steel needle. What follows is some information about nickel.

Clothing: Metal zips, bra hooks, suspender clips, hair-pins, buttons, studs, spectacle frames and so forth all most likely contain nickel. Use of substitutes made of plastic, coated or painted metal or another material is highly suggested.

Jewelry: Necklaces, necklace-clips, earrings, bracelets, watch-straps and rings may all contain nickel. "Hypoallergenic", solid gold (12 carat or more) and silver jewelery should be safe to wear and avoid causing an allergic reaction. Nine carat gold and white gold both contain nickel. Plastic covers for earring studs may help you to avoid an allergic reaction. Coating the stud with nail varnish is not recommended, but may prevent a reaction as well.

Metal items at home: Cupboard handles, kitchen utensils, cutlery, toasters, metal teapots, scissors, needles, pins, thimbles, vacuum cleaners, torches, bath plugs and additional items might all contain nickel. It is important to choose items made with plastic when you can, or plastic handles. Stainless steel does not usually cause dermatitis unless it is nickel-plated.

Metal at work: Paper clips, typewriter keys, instruments, metal fragments from a lathe or chain saw can all contain nickel.

Money: Silver coins are made of cupro-nickel. People with an allergy to nickel can wear gloves to handle money.

Personal articles: Lipstick holders, powder compacts, handbag catches, cigarette lighters, razors, keys, key rings, pocket knives, may all potentially cause dermatitis.

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