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Nickel allergy


Disease: Nickel allergy Nickel allergy
Category: Allergies

Disease Definition:

Nickel allergy is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which is an itchy rash that appears when the skin touches a normally harmless substance. Nickel can be found in a lot of everyday items such as coins, necklace clasps, watchbands and eyeglass frames; however, nickel allergy is generally associated with earrings and other body piercing jewelry.


Once a person acquires nickel allergy, he/she will always be sensitive to metal and should avoid contact with it. Nickel allergy might be acquired after a single, repeated, or prolonged exposure to nickel, and it can affect people of all ages. However, treatments for nickel allergy could alleviate the symptoms.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


In nickel allergy, an allergic reaction usually starts from 12 to 48 hours after exposure to an item that contains nickel and might persist for two to four weeks. The forms of contact dermatitis that is caused by nickel allergy usually appear only where the skin came into contact with nickel, but they might appear elsewhere on the body. Its signs and symptoms include:


  • Itching, which might be severe
  • Redness or changes in skin color
  • Rash or bumps on the skin
  • Blisters and draining liquid in severe cases
  • Dry patches of skin that might look like a burn
  • Sweating at the point of contact with nickel might aggravate the symptoms


A doctor should be seen when someone has a skin rash and doesn’t know how he/she got it. Additionally, if the rash drains liquids and develops blisters, emergency care should be sought.


People might use over-the-counter and home medications that were recommended by his/her doctor in the past if they have already been diagnosed with nickel allergy and are sure they are reacting to nickel exposure. If no improvement in symptoms is seen within two weeks, the doctor should be seen.


An allergic reaction is rather like a case of mistaken identity within the immune system of the body. Usually, the immune system reacts to protect the body against toxic substances, bacteria or viruses. Once the body has developed an allergen, which is the reaction to a particular agent, the immune system will always be sensitive to it. So, the body will react to nickel if somebody has nickel allergy because the body will mistakenly identify nickel as something harmful, and the immune system produces an inflammatory response when coming into contact with nickel.


The cause of nickel allergy is unknown; however, sensitivity to nickel might be partially genetic. Nickel allergy is most commonly linked with earrings and body piercing jewelry that contain some nickel. The typical sources of nickel exposure include:


  • Body piercing jewelry
  • Rings, bracelets, necklaces, jewelry clasps, and other jewelry
  • Hairpins
  • Suspender clips
  • Belt buckles
  • Watchbands
  • Clothing fasteners like snaps, brassiere hooks, and zippers
  • Eyeglass frames
  • Keys
  • Pens
  • Tools like screwdrivers and hammers
  • Paper clips
  • Kitchen vessels and instruments
  • Coins


If the first jewelry people wear after a piercing contains nickel, the body is continually exposed to the metal during the healing time, and most people who have piercings wear jewelry every day. People who have usual exposure to nickel on the tops of their hands, feet or abdomen while doing wet work as a result of either sweat or frequent contact with water may be more likely to acquire nickel allergy; this may include bartenders or people who work in certain food industries. Moreover, people might have a greater risk of acquiring nickel allergy if other family members are sensitive to nickel.





There is no cure for nickel allergy; however, doctors might prescribe medications to alleviate irritation and improve the condition of contact dermatitis caused by a nickel allergy reaction. These medications include oral corticosteroids, corticosteroid creams, and oral antihistamines.

Oral corticosteroids:

These medications are prescribed if the reaction is severe or if the rash covers a large area. One example of oral corticosteroids is prednisone.

Corticosteroid creams:

Such as betamethasone dipropionate and clobetasol propionate.

Oral antihistamines:

These medications are for relief of itching, such as cetirizine and fexofenadine.


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