Nickel Allergy, Symptoms, Test, Treatment, Nickel Free Food

Nickel allergy is among the top most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. The body develops a typical skin irritation or rash after an initial and prolonged contact with nickel allergen. It is referred to as NI- ADC as it affects the area of contact. Thus, in the year 2008, the American contact dermatitis named nickel as the contact allergen of the year.

Causes of Nickel Allergy

The degree of reaction to nickel allergy varies among individuals in response to being exposed to contact nickel allergen though it is common among women than men.  Women are more at risk of developing the allergy due to the more body piercing however with the recent development of male piercing men are also at risk.  The precise cause of nickel allergy is unidentified as it develops whenever the immune system views the allergen as a harmful substance. Under normal conditions, the immune system reacts to defend the body against harmful substances such as toxic, bacteria or viruses.

Whenever the body develops an allergic reaction to any allergen such as nickel the immune system develops a sensitive reaction towards it. Meaning that whenever one is exposed to nickel, the immune system will always react producing an allergic reaction.

Signs and Symptoms of Nickel Allergy

Usually, when exposed to the contact nickel allergen the body develops a skin reaction within 12 to 72 hours after exposure. Often the skin reaction may last for around two to four weeks depending on the level of nickel exposure.  The allergy to nickel tends to occur on the exposed area of the skin, but the severe reaction can cause the skin irritation to spread to other areas of the body. Normally nickel allergy symptoms include

  • Skin itching.
  • Development of bumps or rash on the skin.
  • Redness and skin color changes.
  • Burnt like dry patches on the exposed area.
  • Water blisters may develop in severer cases making the skin to peel off and oozy.

The Sources of Nickel Contact

It is usually very difficult to avoid the exposure of nickel as the metal is often crafted in most of the household products and some food products. These items include.

  • Belt buckles.
  • Eyeglass frames
  • Coins, cellphones.
  • Jewelry such as bracelets, rings and necklaces earrings and body piercing.
  • Metal tools.
  • Clothes fasteners such as bra hooks, zippers,
  • Certain foods such fruits, grains, and vegetables as that contain high nickel content.

Risk Factors That Improve Exposure to Nickel Allergy

Depending on the frequency of exposure certain factors play a crucial role in nickel allergy development.

1. Having Body And Ear Piercing

Most of the jewelry are made and coated with nickel thus puts the body at high risk of containing nickel allergy.  According to research done by American Academy of Dermatology, 16 % of men are nickel allergic compared to 36 % women under the age of 18 in America.  The research concludes that this factor is highly contributed to the cheap body and ear piercing in young girls.

2. Occupation

Working in an environment that constantly exposed to metals puts one at a higher risk of contracting nickel allergy compared to individuals  in different job environment.  Job occupation such as hairdressers, domestic cleaners, cash handlers, tailors, nursing, metal workers are highly exposed to nickel, and the allergic reaction is imminent.

3. Genetics

Individuals can inherit an allergy to nickel if there exists a member of the family sensitive to nickel.

4. Other Metal Allergic Reaction

In certain occasions, individual’s sensitive to another metallic allergy can develop a nickel reaction as the immune system is sensitive to harmful intruders.

Nickel Allergy Diagnosis

When there are persistent itchiness, skin irritation and the allergic reaction it is advisable that you seek the advice of a dermatologist to perform a patch test before self-medication.  The doctors usually diagnose the allergy based on the appearance of the skin and recent exposure to nickel.

The Procedure of Performing a Patch Test

The procedure is a sure way of testing and diagnosing nickel allergy.  If the dermatologist suspects a nickel allergy, the first procedure involves directly applying tiny amounts of various suspected contact allergen. The doctor applies the allergen on the upper back with the use of a hypoallergenic tape.

Normally the applied allergen concentration is very low to cause an irritation among non-allergic people but high enough to cause a positive reaction among sensitive people.  The smeared allergen is left exposed on the body for about 48 hours and tested. For nickel allergic people the patch test reacts positively.

Treatment of Nickel Allergy

Nickel allergy is a chronic condition, and once you develop a nickel allergy, the body develops a skin irritation and rash whenever in contact with the metal. Thus, there is no cure, and the body develops nickel sensitivity, and it occurs throughout the life period. However, through proper medication and drugs, the severity of the skin irritation and pain is reduced.

Often the first stage of nickel allergy treatments is the topical treatment done in response to epidermal restoration barrier. The therapy includes.

Nonsteroidal creams

Doctors recommend creams such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus that are applied on the surface of affected area. The drugs may have side effects such as temporary stinging when applied and should be applied with caution and doctor’s prescription.

Oral corticosteroid

Dermatologist recommends that individuals suffering from nickel allergy should take oral corticosteroid drug such as prednisone to ease the effects of allergy. The drug should be used with caution as it has side effects such increased blood pressure, mood swings, and weight gain.

Oral antihistamine pills

A dermatologist can prescribe pills such as fexofenadine or cetirizine for patients to swallow to reduce the swelling and itchiness of the allergy.

Corticosteroid cream

Normally it is recommending that drugs such as clobetasol and betamethasone dipropionate cream are a good source to fight the effects of nickel allergy. The cream should be applied with caution as it has long term side effect on the skin.

Phototherapy treatment

The treatment procedure is effective for persistent and severe cases of nickel allergy that has not worked under topical treatment.  The treatment includes exposing the affected skin to precisely measured volumes of artificial ultraviolet lights.

Home Remedies for Treating Nickel Allergy

Calamine lotion

The lotion acts as a soothing solution to ease the itchiness on the skin.

Wet compresses

Soak a clean towel in tap water or burrow solution and apply gently on the affected area. The process is useful in dry blisters and relieves skin itchiness.

Moisturizing body lotion

Naturally, the skin has a barrier that protects against harmful allergens and reaction to nickel affects the skin. The use of Emollient creams such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly alleviates the skin dryness and itchiness of dermatitis.

Prevention Measures to Alleviate the Nickel Allergy

When exposed to nickel allergy it is advisable to shun away from prolonged contact with products containing nickel. It is usually very difficult to avoid nickel as its contained in almost every household product. Sticking to certain precaution measures help to ease the spread.

Use hypoallergenic jewelry

Always evade from wearing jewelry that contains nickel. It is advisable to buy stainless steel products that are free of nickel metal.

Avoid body and ear piercing

If in need of ear and body piercing, make sure that it is done through a sterile and stainless steel needle. Normally after the piercing wear18 karat gold earrings that are made of high-quality stainless steel until full skin recovery. Always ensure the piercing studio uses stainless steel piercing gun and the needle is not used to pierce another person.

Wear nickel free clothes

For sensitive skin allergic to nickel look for alternative materials that do not contain nickel. Wear watches that have leather straps or cloth fasteners made of coated metal or wear plastic or titanium eyeglass frames. Products such as copper, platinum, pure sterling silver, and polycarbonated plastic are safe for wearing.

In cases where it is difficult to avoid wearing metal products such as watches and belts always coat the items with clear nail polish. However the solution fades fast so you should frequently apply for effective results.

Wear protective gears

Individuals in industries that are highly exposed to nickel should wear protective gears such as gloves or cover metallic handles with duct tape to ease the exposure.

Nickel free diet

Having a diet that is free of nickel product is an essential step towards lessening the severity of nickel allergen on the skin. Foods to avoid include fish, oat meat, cholate, canned foods, nuts, soya beans, peas or broccoli.

Studies done with researchers indicate that nickel is often released into food whenever an acidic product such as citrus fruit and rhubarb is cooked in a stainless steel utensil.

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