Nickel Named Allergen of the Year

nickel-2.JPGForget the Oscars. The American Contact Dermatitis Society has just held its annual red carpet event — allergens of the year. The winner for the 2008 Allergen of the Year is … nickel.

Nickel allergies continues to rise in young people, especially in girls; this is attributable to widespread ear and body piercings and to wearing inexpensive jewelry.

If you have an allergy to nickel, then you know it is seemingly everywhere — on belt buckles, jean snaps, jewelry, keys, cell phones, even medical devices like orthopedic hardware and vascular stents. Ironically, there isn’t much nickel in a nickel, but still enough to cause minor dermatitis on your hands or your upper thighs, especially in that uncle who always jingles the change in his pocket.

Nickel can also be found in foods such as nuts, chocolate, and fish. Eating foods high in nickel, if you have an allergy, can lead to hand dermatitis (I’ll publish a complete list of high nickel foods in a later post).

If you have an itchy rash below the belly button (from snaps and belt buckles), on your ears or face (from a cell phone or earrings), or on your wrists and fingers (from watches or jewelry), then you might have allergic contact dermatitis to nickel. In some people, the rash can become widespread, even in places where the skin has not come in contact with the nickel. This is called an id reaction.

If you think you have an allergy to nickel, then make an appointment with your dermatologist. He or she can give you a patch test to determine exactly what you are allergic to and can prescribe a topical steroid to calm your rash.

12 thoughts on “Nickel Named Allergen of the Year”

  1. White gold jewelry has never given me any problems, but anything else has ALWAYS caused issues for me. My body has now gotten to the point where I have a rash on my arms (around my elbows and down the forearms) even though the only contact my body has with nickel now is the occasional coin holding or the buttons and rivets on my jeans. I have rashes in the areas of contact on my hips, but went to my dermatologist today and she said the rash on my arms is that “id reaction” that was mentioned before.

    I find putting Cortizone (spelling?) cream on the areas helps cool the itch for the time being, and I have been given Fluocinonide cream from my dermotologist.

    I just wish there was a pill or something that could be taken! UGH.

  2. I have been dealing with redness around my mouth that would come and go for about 4 years now, no Doctor has pin pointed what it was, until now. I went last week to the Dermatologist and the begin “patch” testing, I had to live with 127 patches covering my back for 2 days, then go a week with getting my back wet, my god was that unbearable, especially b/c it has been so humid where I live. Well I went today to see the results of it. It was pretty plain and simple to see that I had no other reaction to any of the patches except for one. The Nickel patch! As she talked to me about the foods and all the different things I touch through the day that have nickel in them, including my engagement ring. Must say I was quiet overwhelmed at all of this and tears welled up in my eyes! The food list is crazy of what you can’t eat. If anyone has any suggestions that would be great, b/c it seems like ill be living on a Brussels sprout and carrot diet w/NO margarine. I guess easy weight loss for the wedding, lol. If anyone can help with any advice to dealing with this please, let me know.

  3. Kevan Holmberg says:

    Nickel has never been tested in humans. The FDA has allowed the Stent manufactures to implant stents that contain about 14% Nickel directly into the blood stream. I had a stent placement 4 years ago and have been a total mess ever since.I take large amounts of antibotics daily for the last 3 years. This allows me to walk, muscle and joint major problems, major body rash, spots in my lungs, just like the CDC tests on Rats.

    Anyone interested in this and what can be done to releave some parts of the effects, please call.( 952-955-6964) Been trying to warn the public and the goverment people who should take notice with little help. This was noted in 1999 by a German Stent maker with studies and the FDA did not do there job again. Who would ever assume Nickel would be placed directly in the blood stream.

    Have spent over $250,000 to find the answers. The U of Mn. anf the Mayo Clinic were a total dead end.


    Kevan Holmberg
    Mound, Mn.

  4. I just wonder if me touching my computer mouse could be the reason why my hands are always hurtings. I am allergic to nickel. If I eat anything with nickel in it I break out. If I eat to muc, plus tomatoes and Aspertame then I will have breathing problems. Or if I eat canned foods every day then I will breath funny.
    Could my hands be gurting from my mouse being nickel or me touching things with nickel. Email me at if you know for sure if it does this.

  5. I just wonder if me touching my computer mouse could be the reason why my hands are always hurting. I am allergic to nickel. If I eat anything with nickel in it I break out. If I eat to muc, plus tomatoes and Aspertame then I will have breathing problems. Or if I eat canned foods every day then I will breath funny.
    Could my hands be hurting from my mouse being nickel or me touching things with nickel. Email me at if you know for sure if it does this.

  6. I also went threw plenty of doctors. I seen maybe about 8 here in my home town. It started out that I was getting a rash every day when I woke up in the morning. It wasn’t so bad at first. Then it would go from having a little hives to having so many you couldn’t see my regular color of my skin. One doctor told me it was nothing and take Benadryl. Then I went to another lady and she gave me steroids. Oh they helped out alot. Then I got a steroid shot because I was so bad. Then I developed Asthma symptoms. They tested me in the offices for asthma and my breathing went down to 83. (Oxygen level) So she said I had Asthma or how ever you spell it. So I just kept getting worse. I took blood test. Lupus showed up. I had blood work on joints, Arthrightis and all and that was all border line. So I was a mess. High blood pressure, Kidney infections. Blah. I fianlly got sent to St. loius after 8 missrable months and he told me to stay away from a few things he listed for 3 weeks and then if that don’t help switch to these things for 3 weeks. Well all this time it has been Nickel! Canned foods! Then tomatoes and Aspertame. I can maintain my breathing and hives betetr. When I drink aspertame my lips swell. Or my face swells. All this happens if I eat to much nickel or Tomatoes too. I would have never thought canned foods would have nickel. Well then my whole family has food allergies and plus nickel. I do have joint pains. My doctor said when your allergic to Aspertame your joints will hurt. My hands have been hurting too. So I don’t have lupus like some doectors thought I had or told me I had it. I have also spent alot of money.

  7. My girlfriend has lately come out in a rash all over the body which eventually goes away then will reappear a couple of weeks later. A patch test revealed a reaction to nickel and also hair colourant as she is a hairdresser.
    Steroid tablets and creams help alittle and calm it down but is there medical a solution to this.

  8. Kevan Holmberg says:

    From Kevan Holmberg 952-955-6964
    Feel free to contact me regarding Nickel reaction.A Mayo Clinic Dr. just told another person I knew who had stents, that the problems possibly are Nickel reactions. When I was down 2 years ago they would not read the printed materials regarding this. Its on the package warning from the FDA.( My cat gets better care)

    I can tell you what will help.


  9. I first went to my doctor a year and a half ago with a wicked rash on my belly. He told me it was a metal allergy. So I stopped wearing a belt, and started wearing a rope. Then, I start getting an icthy rash around my eyes and also on something else. It would flare up and then get better then flare up again. some times my neck would get a rash and other places as well. I went back and forth to several doctors over the next several months,and they all said the same thing, “you have eczema”,”sorry no cure”, “here is some cream”. Then I went on a vacation,and the entire time I’m away, no problems. As soon as I’m home the rashes start appearing again. So my doctor does a patch test and I have a severe reaction to nickle. Long story short, I play guitar and the strings are made of NICKLE. Smoking gun! Now I’ve been washing my hands after touching just about anything made of metal, and for the last few weeks, no problems.

  10. Curtis Barker says:

    I have had psoriasis for 30+ years. I began to notice 3 years ago that, after playing guitar for several hours, my eyes would red up and itch. It got worse as the months went by and they soon began to swell and itch like poison ivy burns. It was lasting longer and longer up to two weeks to return to normal. I had a patch test and discovered I have become extremely allergic to nickel after years of regular contact. My doctor told me a slight nickel allergy can advance to extreme with more and more nickel contact. I changed all frets, strings and other hardware to from nickel to stainless steel on all my guitars. I can now play a full
    show with no ill effects from nickel. As a side benefit about six months after the the changes to my guitars my psoriasis is now clear.
    I found out there is allot of nickel in this world. My office chair, belt buckle, snaps on jeans, some door handles, tools, fixtures, glasses, dirt, golf club shafts, key rings, jewelry, lots of musical instruments, and many many other things. This substance should be
    outlawed. If you have psoriasis it may be a nickel/bronze allergy. My psoriasis generally covered my elbows, knees, and torso and was never gone until now.

    Age Event
    @10.Play guitar sometimes
    @15.Began cleaning golf clubs for my dad and his friends.
    @18.Diagnosed with psoriasis
    @19.Started playing guitar and golfing weekly
    @45.Noticed fingers itch after a gig
    @46.Noticed fingers itch and peal after a gig right wrist itch also
    @48.Eyelids slight burn and itch during a gig
    @50.Eyes swell and itch uncontrollably (discovered nickel allergy)
    Changed guitar strings and hardware and can now play.
    Avoid nickel (not a easy task) it’s everywhere.
    @51.psoriasis gone for the 1st time since age 18!
    @53.Telling Somebody!

    I still come in contact with nickel once in a while and my eyes will swell and itch for 2 weeks after the contact. It is difficult to avoid nickel.

    I know several guitar players with psoriasis and have informed them of my experience.

    I play guitar for live events and half the stuff on stage is nickel and I must avoid.

    Some buildings have nickel in the air (from HVAC systems I guess) and within ten minutes my eyelids will begin to burn. I have to leave the building and wash my hands and face.

    Guitar Center is one of these buildings. When I go there I must make a plan to get in and out fast.

    I use D’Addario XLS and XL Prosteels and Ernie Ball Stainless Steel strings for electric. They take some getting use to as far as eq-ing for tone. They sound best on my fender twin, HRD, and Mesa mark III simul class and not so good on my SS amps. I use to use GHS Boomers nickel coated and those strings are pure poison to me now. I use martin silk and steel for my acoustics. They always sound old and like they need to be changed. I had to paint the latches on my guitar cases. I had to change from switchcraft to neutrik ends. Had to change frets to stainless steel. I had to change tuning keys on one of my guitars. I put a piece of electrical tape on my bridge where my right wrist rest while playing. I had to switch to graphite shafts on all my golf clubs. I no longer shake hands with other guitar/bass players. I now, never let anyone play my guitars or carry my equipment. I never touch the guitars,amps,cables,tuners,ect.. of others. The guys in my band have seen me with my red swollen shut watering eyes and understand.

    I was a typical psoriasis person with red patches of skin that were covered with thick white scales. I have always had it on my knees and elbows. I have had it at times on my torso so bad that I would crack and bleed if I twisted too much. I been to countless doctors who said yup you got psoriasis. I was in the military and had a team of doctors review and study me. My psoriasis sometimes got better and sometimes got worse and I never had a clue as to why. I’ve tried diets and gave up. I eat peanuts, chocolate, and anything else I want and I drink whiskey when I want. I smoked for 30+ years. I quit smoking for two years and then started back. I don’t do any illegal drugs. I have played guitar for 30+ years. When I changed my guitar strings and hardware from nickel to stainless steel my psoriasis cleared completely for the 1st time ever and I am still clear. If I come in contact with nickel, my eyes will start burning, swelling, and itching. The best way I can describe it is “Its like ants crawling around on my eyelids and taking a byte now and then. When the swelling goes down (about a week) the area around my eye turns brown and crusty and takes a week to heal to normal. Needless to say, I avoid nickel!
    I’m not saying nickel is the cause of psoriasis. I am saying if you have skin problems get a patch test done and find out if you have any allergies.

  11. Hi Kevan, are you still around? Do you have an email address I can reach you on as I’m in Australia.

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