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Nickel Allergy

Questions:

  • That rash near the umbilicus (medical word for “belly button”) that is red, itchy and keeps coming back may be related to the snap on those blue jeans or that fancy Montana belt buckle.  This could be a reaction to…
  • Those new ear rings from Uncle Wiggley have resulted in itchy, weeping, oozing reactions on the ear lobes.  This could be from…
  • That cool silvery watch and watchband looks great! Why is there an itchy red rash developing on the wrist?
  • I have braces, headgear and now a rash on my face.  Could it be related to my orthodontic appliance?
  • That widespread rash keeps coming and going.  Could it be from what I’m eating?

Answer:

Nickel.  Allergic contact dermatitis from nickel affects 10-15% of the population worldwide. This type of allergy is called a Type IV T-cell mediated delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction.  Nickel allergy is 2 to 6 times more common in women than men. It is also more common in younger individuals and those without pollen or food allergy. The skin reaction occurs at sites where the skin contacts nickel contained in many metals including:

  • Costume jewelry, snaps, necklaces, belt buckles, watches and watchbands, and eye glasses
  • Coins (a nickel contains 25% nickel and 75% copper); during WWII there was NO nickel in nickels-needed for war effort!
  • Cosmetics
  • Orthodontic appliances and wires
  • Foods: nickel occurs in elevated amounts in legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, potatoes, dark chocolate/cocoa powder and fish.  Levels may be especially high in canned fruits, vegetables, meats and fish.  Tap water and some vitamins contain nickel.

I hope this blog was a nickel’s worth of free advice!

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