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You absolutely love that new pair of vintage earrings that you found at your local flea market. And that price? What a steal.
Unfortunately, within hours of wearing them, your skin began to become inflamed, red, swollen, and itchy. Is it a curse? Not exactly.
Chances are it’s a jewelry allergy, and your symptoms aren’t uncommon. The NCBI estimates that as many as 17% of women and 3% of men have a nickel sensitivity.
If your skin is breaking out and you believe that it may be due to a nickel allergy, read on to learn more.
What to Look For
If you have a nickel allergy, you may have an allergic reaction to jewelry within 12 hours of wearing a piece containing nickel. You will begin to develop an itchy, swollen, red rash in the area where your skin made contact with the metal.
For those who are unlucky enough to have purchased glasses that contain nickel… you might want to look into returning your frames.
How to Know for Sure
How can you know for sure that what you’re experiencing is due to a nickel allergy? To know for certain, you’ll have to ask your doctor for an allergy test.
To test you for what may be a nickel allergy, your doctor will apply several small swatches of compounds (including nickel) to your back. Those areas will then be covered with patches for around 48 hours.
After the 48 hour mark, the answer will become apparent. Most reactions to nickel occur within 12 hours of contact.
What It Means
Having a jewelry allergy can be annoying but hardly life-altering. Nickel allergies are a lifelong condition, so it’s up to you to change your jewelry choices if you want to avoid your symptoms.
Nickel isn’t a substance present in all jewelry, so don’t fret! Nickel is a compound often used in ‘fake jewelry.’ So avoid the cheap stuff if you aren’t ready to spend the coming days fighting a rash.
If you need a temporary solution in the short term, try this trick. Coat the back of a piece of nickel jewelry with clear nail polish. Be sure to coat every area that will have direct contact with your skin.
This will help to create a barrier between you and your allergen until you have time to find a more permanent solution.
If you are given a piece of jewelry that holds personal significance or is a family heirloom, you may choose not to apply clear nail polish to protect its integrity. Instead, take your piece to a jeweler and arrange for the piece to be plated with a metal that doesn’t irritate your skin.
You’ll want to select a gold 14k or above if you’re arranging to have your piece plated. Beware, yellow gold is nickel free, but white gold may have elements of nickel present.
In the future, when selecting pieces, you may want to save yourself the added trouble and opt for a more high-quality piece, like these custom engraved men’s rings.
Other Nickel free metals include sterling silver and platinum.
How to Manage Your Jewelry Allergy Symptoms
If your symptoms are mild, it is possible to handle them with at home treatments prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will likely prescribe you a topical steroid cream that can be applied to the affected area.
Another alternative for jewelry allergy management is readily available over the counter treatments. Antihistamines like Benadryl are available in drugstores everywhere and serve as an effective treatment for symptom relief.
Hydrocortisone is another great alternative to prescription steroids. Hydrocortisone cream is a topical agent that can be applied directly to soothe inflammation and relieve the itch.
If you can’t manage your symptoms with these methods or if the rash begins to spread, call your doctor.
What Causes a Jewelry Allergy
The allergic reaction trigger after coming into contact with nickel occurs because the body can sometimes mistake a harmless substance for that of an intruder.
In this case, the body believes that the metal is a harmful intruder and creates a reaction to produce chemicals that meant for keeping the allergen at bay.
Recently, some genetic components have been recognized by scientists. These genetic factors are often believed to have been passed on from your parents. However, you can also develop an allergy over time.
If you work with metal on a regular basis, you can become more prone to developing an allergy. This risk is raised even further if you work in a profession where you have heavily contact with metal while sweating.
More Than You May Expect
Nickel allergies are a contact disorder caused by your body’s aversion to the substance nickel. This, of course, means more than just being allergic to jewelry. Nickel can also be present in foods you ingest.
Nickel is present in many foods that you might not expect, including some grains, vegetables, soy products, and canned fruits. This is caused by the food leeching nickel from the soil where it was grown or the can it was stored. Food can also pick up nickel from the tools used to package it, so be on the lookout. Processed foods are especially likely to contain nickel.
This low dose of nickel can cause an overall itchy feeling in those affected, especially in the hands and feet. If you or someone you love has jewelry allergy, you should take steps to limit or remove nickel food sources from your diet. The results may surprise you!
For more information on how you can live a healthier, more beautiful life visit our blog for more great skin care articles.