Allergic to jewellery? Nickel allergies explained

Allergic to jewellery

Allergic to jewellery? Nickel allergies explained

Have you ever worn a new piece of jewellery and discovered it leaves a necklace shaped rash? Sounds like you might be allergic to nickel. It’s estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel, with the difference in figures assumed to be because of differing jewellery use. 

What causes it?

You might have a nickel allergy because your immune system takes offence to it and reacts in response. The metal is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, where your body reacts after coming into contact with a normally harmless substance.

Often, it takes prolonged use of nickel items to see a reaction, but once you do, you’ll always be sensitive to the metal and should avoid it wherever possible.

One of the main ways people discover nickel allergies is by wearing jewellery. You wear jewellery for extended periods of time, meaning your skin is in constant contact with the allergen. You could wear something a few times before a reaction is visible, but if allergic, your body will eventually catch on.

It’s not just in jewellery that you might encounter nickel. Some other causes are:

  • Buttons on clothing
  • Belt buckles
  • Electronic devices
  • Watches
  • Coins
  • Metal tools
  • Glasses frames

What are the symptoms?

An allergic reaction to nickel will usually present as a rash. The area is likely to look inflamed, itchy, and warm to the touch. The skin may also be dry, bumpy, and resemble a burn in patches. In severe cases, the skin may blister and seep fluid.

Treatments/preventatives

The easiest way to prevent a further reaction is to completely stop all contact with the metal. You can find items made of alternative materials to use going forward. For example, sterling silver or gold for your jewellery and watches.

At home, wet compresses will work wonders for itching, and keep the area moisturised with an inoffensive formula. If your reaction doesn’t get better at home, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid or nonsteroid creams to minimise irritation, or antihistamines to tackle the itchiness. 

If you find your skin has reacted to products made of nickel, chances are you’re allergic and should hold off on using the item again. Luckily, there are lots of alternative materials out there. Your reaction will likely be manageable from home and go away in a week or so, but visit your doctor if it gets worse or sticks around.

At The London Allergy and Immunology Centre, we can help identify your allergies or help you understand ones you already have. If you have any questions, or want to book an allergy test, get in touch with us on 02031 433 449.

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