Red spots, wheals, itching - if fashion jewelry causes problems, a nickel allergy is close. Nickel can also hide in many other things, which causes problems for a nickel allergy problems. Nickel is a trace element and widely used - so it can be detected in the air, in the water and in the earth. Today, nickel is often included in metal alloys because of its strength and heat resistance.
Many everyday items contain nickel
Nickel is also found in many things of daily use, so that sufferers of a nickel allergy are easily confronted with their allergy. Some examples of things with nickel are: jewelry, eyeglasses (especially eyeglass temples), belts, bra locks, dentures, cutlery, buttons, coins, door handles and nails. Cosmetics, household appliances and numerous foods may also contain traces of the metal. High quality silver and gold alloys also contain nickel.
Nickel allergy is a contact allergy
The repeated contact with nickel leads to a contact allergy in many people. Almost one in ten reacts allergic to the metal. This makes nickel allergy the most common contact allergy. The body's immune system misjudges nickel as a dangerous foreign substance and is beginning to fight back, which ends in a nickel allergy.
Special white blood cells, the lymphocytes, recognize nickel as not belonging to the body and call on phagocytes, the so-called macrophages, to help remove the metal: an allergic reaction occurs. But this does not happen at the first contact - months can pass before the defense stands. If the body later comes into contact with nickel again, the symptoms do not occur immediately, but usually only after 12 to 72 hours.
Nickel allergy: symptoms and signs
Nickel is very soluble in water. This is also the reason why allergic reactions to the metal are more frequently observed in the summer in the case of a nickel allergy: Body sweat can dissolve nickel from jewelery, watch clasps or trouser buttons. Acute nickel allergy causes symptoms of redness, wheals, blistering, and oozing around the skin around the point of contact. Itching and skin swelling are also possible symptoms of nickel allergy.
In addition, there is a chronic form of nickel allergy in which the skin becomes dry, flakes and forms painful cracks. Typically, in a contact allergy, such as nickel allergy, the allergic reaction occurs sharply limited at the skin sites that had direct contact with the allergen.
Limit values for nickel by EU directive
An EU directive sets limit values for nickel content and obliges manufacturers to label them. If nickel is not identified, this does not guarantee that a product will actually contain nickel. Namely, a nickel-free surface coating is often sufficient to circumvent the labeling - but it does not give safe protection against nickel allergy, because the coating can wear over time and nickel is released.
Nickel allergy: treatment and diagnosis
In case of suspected nickel allergy, the dermatologist will stick a plaster prepared with nickel on the back and after two to three days check how the skin has reacted at this point. If there is a nickel allergy, treat the condition with cortisone ointment. The ointment is applied only thinly over a few days. Thus, side effects of cortisone are almost impossible. Against the itching in a nickel allergy help so-called antihistamines in the form of tablets.
Tips for a nickel allergy
- To avoid contact with the allergen. If you are not sure whether a piece of jewelery hides nickel, you can check this with a nickel test. For this purpose, a cotton swab is moistened with test liquid and then painted over the suspect object. Whether this releases nickel, you will learn after a few seconds. The self-test is available in the pharmacy.
- Take individual protective measures. These include protective gloves, skin protection foam or skin protection creams.
- For skin care, use soap-free syndets (pH between 5 and 6.5) and astringent and moisturizing baths.