Ever noticed a tender area after you take your pierced earrings off? How about an itchy rash around your wrist? These are syptoms of a nickel allergy and should not be ignored. Nickel allergins are the number one jewelry metal allergin, and are rising every year. After poison ivy, metal alergies are the most common form of allergic contact dermatitis. Approximately 12% of the female population, and 6% of the male population is allergic to nickel. We would think that this is because more woman have pierced ears than men, but nickel is in everything from blue jeans buttons and zippers to watch backs and bra hooks.
This allergy goes far beyond pierced ears, and once this reaction develops, it often persists for a lifetime. Nickel allergies are not neccessarily to the nickel itself, but when we perspire, nickel salts form between our skin and the nickel piece. The allergy is actually to these nickel salts. Some symptoms of a nickel allergy may start as soon as six to twenty-four hours after contact and include: itchy skin around the contact site, a series of small red or purple bumps forming a rash, on the site, and tenderness, or swolleness around the point of contact. Blisters can also appear. This reaction usually stays well-confined to the area of contact and will dissipate with the removal of the jewelry.
No jewelry piece is made completely of one metal. All jewelry metals are mixed with various components to produce what we call an alloy. Depending on the measurements of these mixtures, we have sterling silver jewelry; containing no nickel, stainless steel; containing nickel, but in which the structure does not permit the nickel to be released by moisture, surgical steel; contains nickel, white gold; contains nickel, gold 14kt and above; most cases in which there is no nickel, or the nickel content is so low, it has no effect on the wearer, gold filled; nickel is present; and gold and silver plated jewelry; there is no nickel on the outside layer, however once that coating wears off, and it will-depending on the frequency of use, the underlying layer contains nickel.
There are nickel test kits available. The kit includes two vials of clear fluid, which are dimethylglyoxime and ammonium hydroxide. When mixed together, these two clear fliuds become pink in the presence of nickel. This kit does not harm your jewelry. Any doctor or pharmacist will know where you can find these kits.
There is no way to desensitise a person with a nickel allergy, by shots, pills, creams, or any other treatment. If you have had an allergic reation to a nickel piece, try rubbing some cortisone cream on the site, after you have removed the jewelry. If you feel the deep desire to wear jewelry containing nickel, despite your allergy, rub cortisone cream on the site, before you put on your jewelry, and limit the wearing time to at least six hours.