A person has an allergy when they react badly to a substance that doesn’t bother most people. The substance can be ingested, breathed in or come into contact with their skin. One of the most common allergies is an allergy to nickel. For people with this allergy, placing nickel on their skin causes contact dermatitis, which presents as an itching rash. Another name for a nickel allergy is Ni-ACD.
What is Nickel?
Nickel is an element that comes in the form of a shiny gray metal. It gives its name to the American five cent coin. But nickel is found in many objects a person might come into contact with every day. They include flatware, batteries, zippers, jewelry, cell phones, buttons and guitar strings. Nickel, whether oil-rubbed or polished to a bright shine, is common on plumbing fixtures. It easily alloys with other metals and often goes into making stainless steel. It’s even present in some foods.
Why are People Allergic to Nickel?
A person who becomes allergic to nickel usually has to come into contact with it more than once. Once the allergy develops, they will always have it, though it may become milder over time and after treatment.
The process that makes a person allergic to nickel is complex and not very well understood. However, scientists believe that when a sensitive person touches an object made of nickel, the free nickel is grabbed by scavenger cells in the skin and exposed to T cells. These are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. These cells duplicate themselves when they’re exposed to the metal. Eventually, they reach the point where a rash erupts on the skin. This is why it takes more than one exposure for a person to become allergic to nickel.
Symptoms of Nickel Allergy
The rash that comes with a nickel allergy can take anywhere from 12 to 120 hours to appear and can last for weeks. It can be restricted to the area of skin touched by the nickel object or can spread. Besides the itching rash, other symptoms are redness and lesions that resemble burns. In very bad cases, the skin blisters and weeps.
Who Gets Nickel Allergies?
People who are at risk for nickel allergies tend to have more piercings than other people, and they become sensitive because the jewelry they use contains nickel. People who work in jobs where they’re exposed to nickel may also become sensitive. Women and girls and people who have a family history of nickel allergies are more likely to get the allergy. If a person is allergic to other types of metal, they have a higher risk of becoming allergic to nickel.
The best treatment is to simply avoid anything with nickel in it. For example, a woman who wants to wear earrings can buy earrings mounted on medical plastic, like those at http://www.blomdahlusa.com/medplasear1.html. The rash can be soothed by corticosteroid or non steroidal creams or antihistamines and corticosteroids taken orally. Some people benefit from light therapy, but this can take a long time to take effect.
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