Jewelry Allergy

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Mild Reactions to Jewelry

The mildest skin reaction to jewelry is a greenish stain on the skin. As it turns out, this has nothing to do with allergies or even skin sensitivities. “It is the oxidation process of jewelry, other than gold, that causes skin to turn green,” says David Herschthal, MD, a Fort Lauderdale dermatologist. “Fine jewelry, such as 18-karat gold, oxidizes far less, so the discoloring usually does not occur with those pieces.” Sweating, Herschthal adds, exacerbates the problem because salt contained in perspiration slightly corrodes the metal. “So if you really love that copper necklace,” he says, “do not wear it to the gym!”

Nickel Allergy

More severe skin reactions to jewelry are usually caused by nickel contained in the metal. A nickel allergy can occur at any age. It typically manifests 12-48 hours after first contact. The reaction may appear as an itchy, red rash with watery blisters. The affected area is usually restricted to the site of contact, although, it can sometimes be found on other parts of the body. Once a nickel allergy has developed, you will likely have this same reaction every time the metal touches your skin.

What is Nickel? And Where Is It?

Nickel is a silvery-white metal found in nature. It is usually mixed with other metals to produce alloys. For example, nickel-iron, which is used to manufacture stainless steel, is the most common nickel alloy. Other nickel alloys are used to make a range of things, such as:

  • Clothing items like bra fasteners, zippers, snaps, buttons, costume jewelry
  • Everyday items like coins, utensils, pens, paper clips, tools, keys

One way to sleuth out a nickel allergy is to figure out if you have reactions to these other items, as well. If you do, you can use substitutes made of plastic, coated or painted metal, or some other material.

What about your jewelry? Wonder whether your favorite opal ring contains nickel? You can test it yourself using a nickel spot test, which safely tests your jewelry and other suspected metallic items for the presence of nickel. You can buy one of these kits online.

You Can Still Wear Jewelry

Even if you have had reactions, there is good news. There are ways to treat your jewelry so that you can wear it without adverse effects:

  • Stick to the good stuff .—Insist that all your jewelry be either sterling silver or at least 14-karat gold. That is the most effective remedy, albeit an expensive one.
  • Try stainless steel .—Try wearing stainless steel or plastic backs on your earrings, and purchase earrings that have stainless steel posts, as well. Although stainless steel contains nickel, it is bound so tightly that it does not leach out. If you think you are sensitive to metals and want to get your ears pierced, Dr. Robert A. Norman of Tampa, Florida suggests getting pierced with a stainless steel needle and using stud earrings that are nickel-free.
  • Try hypo-allergenic .—Some jewelry companies carry specially treated, “hypo-allergenic” jewelry. This jewelry causes fewer reactions in people with mild metal sensitivities.
  • Try clear nail polish .—Dr. Saida Baxt suggests painting jewelry with clear nail polish, so that the skin is never in contact with the offending metal. If that does not work, just put the jewelry away and save it as an heirloom.

About the Author: Mary Mihaly writes online articles for CVS Pharmacy

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Nickel Allergy

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nickel-allergiesHow to avoid nickel dermatitis

We used to find it in our five-cent pieces, but now it seems to pop up everywhere else. And for many people it leaves pain and irritation in its path. “It” is the metal nickel. And although it is no longer used to make a five-cent money piece, nickel is present in many household articles, such as jewelry, cooking utensils, glass dyes, ceramics and batteries. Nickel is even found in some food products because of the nickel found in fungicides and in the equipment used in food processing and packaging. The problem with nickel is that it can cause an allergic skin reaction known as “nickel dermatitis.”

But for those who are, simple skin contact with nickel can cause a skin lesion that is red, swollen and blistered. The skin lesion may go on to become discolored and leathery. The skin cells involved in the lesion become dry, itchy and bark-like. In some people, the skin reaction then progresses to become a hives-like reaction, with red bumps that have crusty tops on them. The bumps are ugly, itchy and irritating. Women suffer from nickel dermatitis more often than men. Women seem to get the aggravating skin problem because of their contact with household articles, whereas men seem to come in contact with nickel at work in industrial settings. The best way to avoid getting nickel dermatitis is to avoid coming in contact with nickel.

How do I avoid nickel products?

Since, a lot of my jewelry and cooking utensils contain the metal nickel! Here are some simple tips on how to avoid skin contact with nickel:

  • Try coating any nickel-containing jewelry with clear nail polish.
  • Replace buttons that contain nickel with brass, wooden or plastic buttons.
  • Consider replacing your nickel-containing kitchen utensils with stainless steel utensils.
  • If you are getting your ears pierced, avoid anything except stainless steel needles and posts.
  • After your ears are first pierced, leave the stainless steel posts in your ears for about three weeks to make sure your ears have healed completely. Then try different earring posts to see which ones you might react to.
  • Even gold earring posts occasionally contain nickel, so be sure to test all your jewelry around the house before wearing it out to a fancy occasion.
  • If you work m an industrial setting where you might be exposed to nickel, wear protective clothing like long pants and sleeves and heavy-duty vinyl gloves.
  • Certain food and vitamin products.

Although you probably can’t avoid nickel 100 percent of the time, following these simple tips will help decrease your exposure to nickel and cut down on your problems with nickel dermatitis.

Related Post: Jewelry Allergy.

MEDICAL SOURCE: Cutis (45,2:87)

Nickel Allergy