A nickel allergy, or jewelry allergy, is the most common form of contact dermatitis associated with the use of earrings and other jewelry. Nickel is found in many items, including accessories, like necklaces and bangles, coins, zippers, watch straps, hair pins, and frames. This skin allergy affects people of all ages, and may persist for a lifetime. Generally, nickel allergies develop with long-term contact or exposure to an item that contains the allergen. It is found to be more common among women than in men. It is also found to be common among hairdressers, metal workers, caterers, and domestic cleaners.
Symptoms of the allergy usually develop up to 24 hours of exposure to the metal, and the allergic response may remain for more than two weeks.
The most common symptoms of a nickel allergy include:
- Itching and redness of the skin
- Skin rashes or bumps
- Dry patches in the affected areas
- Swelling of the skin
Blisters may break open, which then can crust and scab, like many other skin conditions. Skin rashes may then turn black and leathery in appearance. Rashes are generally localized to the area of exposure and rarely spread to other parts of the skin. Sweating is found to worsen the situation in this allergy.
Avoiding contact with the metal is the best way to prevent the allergy from flaring up. If the symptoms are moderate, over-the-counter medications, like hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine drugs, are suggested to control it. If the symptoms are severe, doctors may recommend steroid creams and antihistamine pills. One should take care to prevent infection if the blisters break open and leak fluid.
Nickel allergies can be controlled by simple tips like:
- Using stainless steel accessories, like body piercing jewelry
- Using plastic coated items, like buttons, watch straps, and fasteners
- Coating the item with metal, like platinum
Some of the home remedies that might be useful in alleviating the symptoms include:
- Use calamine lotion on the affected areas to reduce itching
- Keep the area well hydrated with moisturizing lotions
- Use wet compresses to reduce itching
- Use petroleum jelly or mineral oil to reduce the use of corticosteroids
- Avoid using over-the-counter antibiotic creams, as they may worsen the symptoms.