Nickel allergy is common in the United States and affects 10% of children and adults. Contact with metals that contain nickel results in a thick, red, and very itchy area where the nickel contacts the skin. It is most often seen near the belly button. This is because the metal snaps and rivets on jeans, as well as most metal belt buckles contain nickel.
Developing an allergy to nickel takes years. Once your child becomes allergic to nickel, any contact of the skin with metals that contain nickel causes the same reaction that poison ivy would cause. Nickel is found in almost all metals, so earrings, necklaces and chains, bracelets, identification. tags, watches, metal hooks or snaps on clothing, and zippers often contain enough nickel to cause allergy. Nickel allergy is long lasting (often over 30 years). Avoiding nickel is critical. It is the most important part of the treatment of the allergic contact dermatitis (rash).
Your doctor may prescribe a strong steroid cream or ointment to treat the skin rash. This will only work if you avoid all nickel! Your child must avoid all clothing with metal snaps, all costume metal jewelry or watches, and belts with metal buckles. You can allow your child to keep wearing jeans, but you must purchase thick denim patches that can be ironed-on over ALL metal snaps or rivets. Turn all jeans or pants inside out. Any metal that is seen must be covered with the patches. Patches can be purchased at fabric stores, or sometimes craft stores. Using bandages or clear nail polish to cover the metal is not good enough. The rash will not go away. Sewing patches over the metal using thinner fabrics or simply tucking in shirts is also not enough to avoid contact with nickel.
Avoid jewelry that contains metal is also important. Keep in mind that eyeglass frames, bobby pins, curlers, hair pins as well as body piercing are sources of nickel.
It is very important to check the ingredients on a product's label before using it. Manufacturers often change the contents of their products from one year to the next. This includes the products listed below on this handout. Make it a practice to always check all labels for your allergen. This will help to prevent being exposed to Nickel by accident. For work exposure, your employer should provide you with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This lists all the products you may come in contact with at work, and their ingredients.
Simply Whispers Earrings
Roman Research Marketing
77 Accord Park Drive
Norwell, Massachusetts 02061
Nickel Detect Kit
To decide if a metal contains nickel, you can purchase a nickel detection kit. It is called the dimethylglyoxime test (DMG). It is a liquid that is placed on a cotton-tipped swab. You then rub the swab on the metal at the store. If the jewelry, etc contains nickel, the DMG will react and the swab will turn a certain color (see kit instructions).
Contact Allerderm Laboratories at 1-800-365-6868 and ask for information about the Allertest® Ni test kit.
UW Dermatology Department
1 S. Park St 7th Floor
Madison, WI 53715
Clinic: 608 287-2450
American Family Children’s Hospital
Pediatric Dermatology Specialty Clinic
1675 Highland Ave.
Madison, WI 53792
Clinic: 608 263-6420
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/27/2013
Copyright © 06/25/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6484
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