Forget 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.