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Stainless steel also contains small amounts of nickel. However, the crystals of nickel are so firmly held by stainless steel that there is no possibility of nickel allergy, no matter how allergic the person is.
If wearing nickel jewelry turns the exposed skin red and itchy, or leads to the formation of rash, it might indicate that you are suffering from nickel allergy. It is observed that nickel allergy is a major contributor in causing skin allergies. Since the presence of nickel in everyday items is so common, it is not surprising that quite a few cases of allergic contact dermatitis have been linked to nickel allergy.
Cell phones and laptops are some of the frequently used items that contain nickel. According to a review on the exposure, prevalence, and clinical implications of metal allergy by Thyssen JP, MennéT et. al, in the United States and Europe, as many as 17% women and 3% men suffer from nickel allergy. The reason behind higher cases of nickel allergy in women is wearing nickel-contained pendants, bracelets, earrings, and other jewelry.
After coming in contact with items that contain nickel, individuals with nickel allergy are likely to suffer from contact dermatitis―a condition that causes itching, redness, and formation of blisters on the skin. These blisters usually break open, ooze fluid, and eventually crust over. On the other hand, dry patches of inflamed and pigmented areas of skin is a chronic case of dermatitis that does not go away easily. Also, in some cases, contact dermatitis may spread or occur in non-exposed areas of the skin. People who are extremely sensitive to nickel may develop allergy even after eating nickel-containing foods like chocolate and milk.
The onset of symptoms is noticed 12 to 48 hours after touching the nickel-containing item. In some cases, the allergy can start as early as 15 minutes after coming in contact with nickel items. Nickel-allergy dermatitis is commonly noticed on the earlobes or the wrists after wearing a nickel bracelet or a watch strap. The stud on jeans also contains nickel, which can also cause a localized rash just below the navel. Spectacle frames containing nickel may cause skin problems at the point of contact, particularly the nose.
An allergic reaction from nickel exposure indicates that your immune system fails to distinguish between harmful and harmless substances. It wrongfully recognizes nickel as a harmful substance and reacts as if it has been exposed to bacteria and viruses. This blunder of identifying nickel as a threat, triggers an unwanted allergic response in which the immune system releases IgE antibodies, which stimulate the production of certain chemicals, one of which is histamine. When the histamine is released into the skin, it can cause symptoms associated with contact dermatitis.
Applying a cold compress can work wonders to relieve symptoms of contact dermatitis. One has to immerse a cloth in cold water, and then immediately place it on the affected site. Leave it for about half an hour to soothe the itchy sensation. You can repeat this remedy as many times as you want to alleviate the symptoms.
Calamine lotion that is available over the counter can also be helpful to ease skin problems associated with nickel allergy. In order to calm the irritated skin, applying a calamine lotion is a good option. The lotion contains an anti-itch formula that can help relieve the discomfort quickly.
Over-the-counter corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, are also beneficial to relieve allergic contact dermatitis. These topical medication are found to be effective to alleviate the severity and shorten the duration of rash. However, these topical agents have to be used for a short term only as they carry the risk of some bothersome side effects.
Antihistamines that are formulated to nullify the effect of histamines may also help ease skin allergies. Taking over-the-counter oral antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, can be useful to treat itchy skin associated with nickel allergy.
Avoiding contact with the metal is best way to deal with nickel allergy. So, stay away from nickel jewelry and opt for ones that you are not allergic to. You may choose titanium, silver, copper, platinum or nickel-free stainless steel. However, avoid using gold jewelry be it 14K or 18K, as it also contains some amount of nickel. In case of electronic items, you can encase them in a ‘Smart Case’ to avoid exposure to nickel.
On the whole, choosing an alternative to nickel can go a long way in keeping its allergy symptoms at bay. For instance, preferring plastic that is commonly used in making everyday items like eyeglass frames, fasteners, buttons, studs, watchbands, clips, and zippers, can help avoid nickel allergy.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.