Nickel allergy is the most prevalent form of allergic contact dermatitis. Individuals who have nickel allergy often end up with a dry or blistering itchy rash at the area of contact with jewelry or other metallic items.
In uncommon circumstances, nickel allergy triggers a rash all over the body due to the ingestion of nickel that is absorbed into the body. This has been known to occur from tongue piercings, orthodontic braces, nickel that leeched into food from old pans and pots as well as eating foods that contain large amounts of nickel. The foods that contain high levels of nickel include leafy green vegetables, legumes and various seafood and nuts, but these only trigger issues among highly sensitive individuals with the allergy.
Likely sources of nickel
Always bear in mind that nickel allergy is usually linked with earrings or other jewelry for body piercings. The other usual sources of nickel exposure include the following:
- Belt buckles
- Watch bands
- Clothing fasteners such as bra hooks, zippers and snaps
- Metal tools
- Eyeglass frames
- Mobile phones
How the allergy occurs
Nickel allergy can manifest at any point in the lifetime of an individual, even when the symptoms have not occurred in the past. An individual might become allergic after being exposed to substantial amounts of nickel or after contact with a material that contains nickel with damaged skin.
The tendency of an individual to react to the metal is believed to be genetic. It simply means that this allergy is likely to run in families.
How nickel allergy is diagnosed
The allergy is usually diagnosed with patch testing which involves the application of paper tape that contains nickel onto the skin for 48 hours. Among those who have the allergy, a blistering and itchy bump forms at the site of the test although this might take a few days to develop even after the patch has already been removed. Oftentimes, an individual with nickel allergy experiences reactions to other metals such as chromium and cobalt.
The management of nickel allergy typically involves the avoidance of materials that contain nickel. Once a rash develops after exposure, the application of a topical steroid cream is beneficial in managing the symptoms.