Nickel is one of the most common metal in the environment and therefore very difficult
to avoid. Nickel in contact with your skin may result in dermatitis. Nickel is one
of the most common allergen causing
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
(delayed-type hypersensitivity). About 5% of the general population of most Western
Countries are allergic to Nickel. Patch Test clinics throughout the world have a
high prevalence of nickel sensitivity, in the range of 15% with a significantly
rising prevalence in some countries approaching 30% to 40%. This is undoubtedly
related to ear and body piercing.
Where Nickel is found
Nickel is found in most metal and metal plated objects such as:
Diagnosis of a Nickel Allergy
The diagnosis is usually obvious from the history. Occasionally patients present
with atypical features e.g. eyelid eczema or a Patch test
is necessary to make this diagnosis. Nickel is included in all standard patch tests.
The most effective way of preventing nickel sensitisation would be to reduce exposure
to nickel in costume jewellery, particularly earrings. Some countries have banned
metal objects (including earrings, necklaces, bracelets) that release nickel in
excess of 0.5mg/cm2 per week. The dimethylglycoxime test is a rapid,
easy method to determine the release of nickel from metal objects. Two drops of
the solution is placed on a cotton swab and rubbed evenly against the item for 30
seconds. The appearance of a light pink to red on the swab indicates the release
of enough nickel to cause allergic contact dermatitis.
Clioquinol ointment 3% appears to be an effective barrier to prevent nickel dermatitis
How to avoid it / Available alternatives
Aluminium, stainless steel and yellow gold are usually safe alternative metals.
Look for clothing with non-metallic zippers and fasteners etc.
Use scissors, kitchen utensils, combs or other metal items with plastic or wood
Never wear earrings that are not guaranteed to be free of nickel.
Metallic items that are difficult to avoid contact with such as watches, door keys,
etc, could be coated with several layers of nail polish or lacquer or a plastic
coating to cover the metal.
If you are severely allergic use aluminium kitchen utensils and avoid foods
that are rich in nickel.
Foods rich in Nickel
Minimise wet work without protective clothing as moisture increases the penetration
of nickel into skin
Like any other cause of Allergic Contact Dermatitis avoidance
is the best treatment, after prevention.