According to the CDC, nickel allergies affect about 10-20% of the population. They are more common in women than men. Nickel is on of the most common allergies in the United States, and experts are concerned that as we start wearing more and more wearable devices, nickel allergies are going to increase.
Nickel allergies are not necessarily something you are born with like a food allergy. Nickel allergies are a type of contact dermatitis allergy. This type of allergy develops from repeated or extended exposure to nickel (like wearing earrings with nickel in them). Your body's immune system tries to protect you from against harmful substances like viruses and bacteria. In the case of a nickel allergy, your body believes that nickel is harmful, so it starts producing chemicals to fight it off, which triggers an allergic reaction. Once you develop an allergy, you will always be sensitive to that metal and will need to avoid contact with it. This allergy will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The symptoms of a nickel allergy, or contact dermatitis, include a rash, itching, redness, dry skin and swelling. These symptoms generally occur in the spot where the body was in contact with nickel, but sometimes can show up in other areas.
While a nickel allergy can be painful, it usually is not something you need to see a doctor for. The best way to avoid the symptoms of a nickel allergy are just to avoid nickel. Jewelry is one of the most common sources of nickel exposure. When looking for jewelry - especially earrings and body jewelry - choose jewelry that is nickel free. Once you develop an allergy to nickel, it can be very common to be allergic to other metals. To avoid all reactive metals, choose jewelry made with pure, biocompatible metals like titanium, niobium, gold, and platinum.
For more information on nickel allergies, these sources are very helpful:
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