Nickel Allergy Is More Common Than
You Think -- 7 Remedies
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Last updated September 10, 2016, originally published January 1, 2011)

By Ariadne Weinberg,  Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial

Nickel is ubiquitous. Yep, it's everywhere. You can find it in
your keys, cell phone, glasses frames, paper clips, pens,
and jewelry. Yikes. This silver-colored metal is naturally in
the environment and is generally mixed with other metals
to create common objects, such as the ones listed above.

So, who is affected by its ubiquity? Well, on a worldwide
level, 8.6% of humans. However, if you're a lady, watch
out. The number goes up to 17%. A nickel allergy
manifests itself in various ways, none of them particularly
pleasant. Skin rashes or bumps could appear, as well as dry
patches that look like a burn. You may feel itchy or sneeze,
or the allergy could manifest itself as asthma or a runny

Of course, the easiest way to avoid the allergy is to stay
away from all things involving nickel content, but that's not
always possible, nor does it guarantee that a reaction
won't show up anyway. Read on to find some tips on
managing a nickel allergy.

Take Topical Steroids

These are good to treat the immediate symptom; not so
much the cause. While Dr. Frankenfurter from the Rocky
Horror Picture Show is generally right when he says “Treat
the cause, not the symptom!” when flare ups occur, this is
the best first line of defense.

Topical oral steroids are used to treat severe dermatitis,
and work as immunosuppressive agents. Depending on
where your nickel allergy appears, you'll want to use
different doses.

On the face and flexural areas, a low-potency dose is
recommended; on the palms and soles of feet, a high-
potency one.

In her 2009 report, Fernanda Torres from the Federal
University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil lists prednisone as a
practical steroid. Check with your doctor, but you should
generally take 40-60 mg per day in the morning, over 2-3


Go On a Low-nickel Diet

Sometimes you absolutely have to treat the cause.

It has been shown that nickel-sensitive patients sometimes
experience persistent dermatitis, even if their skin isn't in
contact with nickel-plated items.

In 1993, N.K. Veien from the Dermatology clinic in Aalborg,
Denmark did an experiment regarding these patients and
their diet.

He and colleagues tested 90 nickel sensitive patients who
had a flare of dermatitis after 2.5 milligrams of nickel, and
no reaction to the placebo tested. 58/90 of them benefited
in the short term, while others had a potential benefit. 17
didn't benefit at all.

The 55 people who adhered to a nickel-light diet for at
least four weeks, and whose dermatitis had cleared up or
improved at the end of this time, responded to a
questionnaire follow-up 1-2 years later. 40 had long term
improvement of their condition.

According to this study, it's statistically smart to give it a

You can consult a professional about how to get started,
but here are some things to avoid when you're nickel-
sensitive: Cashews, kidney beans, spinach, and
A weird mix, I know.

There are many more foods rich in nickel, unfortunately.


Try  Probiotics

C.L. Randazzo from the department of Agri-food and
Environmental Systems Management at the University of
Catania Italy wanted to know the effects of a particular
probiotic on nickel sensitivity.

So, he and his colleagues evaluated the effects of the
probiotic "lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938"
supplementation in patients suffering from systemic nickel
allergy syndrome.

In patients treated with the bacteria, there were symptoms
related to stools that improved, and the severity of the
cutaneous symptoms (urticaria, itch, eczema), and the
recurrent abdominal pain decreased.

The scientists concluded that probiotics have the potential
to supplement treatment and restore intestinal homeostasis
conditions. More testing is needed, but hopefully some
products are out on the market soon for the nickel-
sensitive to try.


Hypo-sensitize Yourself

Here's something unsual that works for many people ---
exposing yourself to the metal and inducing immune
tolerance is a possibility.

Oral administration of 5.0 mg of nickel sulfate, once a
week, for six weeks, in nickel-allergic patients reduces the
degree of contact allergy.

You can also combine this technique with point two on the
list. While you take nickel sulfate doses in increasing
quantities, starting at 0.3 mg and going up to 3000
mg/week, while consuming a nickel-elimination diet, you
have the potential to eliminate or reduce your symptoms.

In 2008, Dr. M. Minelli of  O.U. of General Medicine Presidio
Ospedaliero Vito Fazzi, Stabilimento di Campi Salentina,
Lecce, Italy and colleagues performed a study using this

Dr. Minelli found that  24 patients experienced a total
remission of their symptoms after 16 months, while 20
patients remained symptom-free after a diet containing
nickel was reintroduced.


Avoid  Nickel and Protect Yourself from Nickel

Sometimes avoidance is the best tactic. Staying away from
nickel products has been shown to be especially helpful for

You can also coat items, such as jewelry and buttons, with
barrier coatings.

According to a 2008 study by A.M. Springle from the
Department of Dermatology at the Pennsylvania State
University College of Medicine, Nickel Guard® and Beauty
Secrets Hardener® (a clear nail polish not containing
tosylamide/formaldehyde resin) are two good options.

The second product is the cheaper bet. If you wear jewelry
or makeup, it's essential to know how to not only coat it,
but also replace it.

Wear stainless steel or gold earrings, and instead of using
metallic buttons, buy plastic or brass ones instead.


Use Barrier Creams

You can protect your external items, and you can also
protect your skin.

Barrier creams act as a “glove”, protecting your skin from
environmental allergens.

There are many different options you can consult your
doctor about. One is ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid
(EDTA), which you can use at a 15% concentration and
mix with topical steroids.

In a 1994 test from the department of dermatology at the
University of Liverpool in the U.K., A.A. Memon and
colleagues discovered that a cream containing 15% EDTA
and 1% hydrocortisone was able to reduce the allergic
reactions to patch tests with 20 pence coins (16% NI, 84%
Cu) in 10 of 26 nickel-sensitive subjects over a 2-day


Do Smell Good and Don't smoke

Antiperspirants are a good bet. They can sometimes
prevent an allergic nickel reaction because sweating
induces a release of nickel ions from metallic items.

However, whatever you do, don't smoke.  Cigarettes
contain nickel.

A 2007 report from Dr. J.P. Thyssen from the Gentofte
University Hospital in Denmark revealed that smoking was a
risk because cigarettes often contain 1 to 3 micrograms of
nickel per cigarette.

If you quit, your allergy won't flare up, and of course,
there are many other health benefits to kicking the cigs to
the curb.

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Avoid cashews if you are allergic to nickel.