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Causes and symptoms

Your bodies immune system normally reacts to protect itself from a virus, bacteria or a toxic substance. Once your body is sensitized to nickel, it will always see nickel as a harmful agent (or allergen) and react against it. Therefore whenever your body comes into contact with nickel, an allergic response will be triggered. After each subsequent exposure the reaction will occur more quickly.

Nickel allergy is most commonly associated with earrings or body piercing, although many everyday objects like kitchen utensils, belt buckles and coins also contain nickel and can set off a reaction when in prolonged contact with the skin.

Nickel can also be found in foods such as oatmeal, beans, nuts, chocolate and dried fruit. Your doctor can prescribe a low nickel diet for you if you have a severe nickel allergy.

Nickel Allergy Symptoms

Once you have a nickel allergy, exposure to nickel will result in an allergic reaction between 12 and 48 hours after contact. This reaction may last between 2 to 4 weeks. Contact dermatitis usually only appears where contact with nickel has been made, but can appear elsewhere on the body too. The nickel allergy reaction is generally worse where sweat is present on the skin.

The symptoms to look out for are...

• Redness and colour change

• A Rash Bumps on the skin

• Severe itching

Dry patches of skin that look like a burn

• Fluid filled blisters in severe cases

When should I visit a doctor?

If you don't know how the skin rash occurred, then visit your doctor. However, if the allergy is obviously caused by metal containing nickel, then remove the item from contact immediately. If you have a known nickel allergy, you can use over-the-counter treatments such as cotisoid creams and home remedies to help stop itching. If the area seems to have become infected, or if there is an impairment in the ability to use a limb due to swelling, then seek medical advice straight away.