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Nickel allergy is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis — an itchy rash that appears where your skin touches a usually harmless substance.

It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel. Other than that, 1% to 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These types of reactions can be localized reactions that are limited to one area. However, they can also be more generalized and affect other more distant parts of the body.

Nickel is a silver-colored metal found naturally in the environment. It’s often mixed with other metals to make various items, including:

  • jewelry
  • coins
  • keys
  • cell phones
  • eyeglass frames
  • paper clips
  • pens
  • orthodontic braces
  • stainless steel cooking equipment and eating utensils
  • clothing fasteners, such as zippers, snap buttons, and belt buckles



A nickel allergy is the body’s adverse immune response when someone comes into contact with a product containing nickel. Normally, the immune system defends the body against harmful substances, such as viruses and bacteria, to ward off illnesses. But if you have a nickel allergy, your immune system mistakes nickel for a dangerous intruder. In response, your body reacts in an allergic reaction.

A patch test is often performed if a nickel allergy is suspected. During the patch test, your doctor applies a small amount of nickel over a patch. The patch is then placed on your skin.

There’s no cure for a nickel allergy. As with other allergies, the best treatment is to avoid the allergen.

However, your doctor may prescribe one of the following medications to help reduce the skin irritation caused by a nickel allergy. If the dermatitis is more significant, the doctor can also prescribe corticosteroid creams and ointments to reduce the local inflammation. The doctor can also prescribe oral antihistamines to further reduce the allergic reaction.



The best strategy to prevent a nickel allergy from developing is to avoid prolonged exposure to items containing nickel. If you already have a nickel allergy, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with the metal.

Wear hypoallergenic jewelry

Using metals less likely to cause a reaction include:

  • Copper
  • Yellow gold
  • Platinum
  • Stainless steel
  • Sterling silver

Choose a piercing studio carefully

Be certain to choose a studio that follows these rules. Visit a studio before getting a piercing to make sure that the piercer provides a clean, professional environment. Also, check to be sure the studio uses sterile, nickel-free or surgical-grade stainless steel needles in sealed packages.Check that the studio only sells hypoallergenic jewelry and can provide documentation of metal content of the products for sale.

In the USA

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