Overview of a Metal Allergy
A metal allergy is one of the most common types of skin allergies, and is commonly attributed to nickel that is found in metals. Nickel is used in many of our everyday items, such as coins, jewelry or cell phones.
- Long-term exposure to a metal that you are allergic to can cause your skin to become dark and leathery.
- Symptoms include: rashes, redness, swelling and pain.
- The most common reaction comes from when people wear nickel, such as jewelry.
- A nickel allergy can be felt as soon as 15 minutes within touching it if you are sweating. If you are not sweating, it will likely take a few hours to notice a rash.
- If you must be in contact with metals such as nickel, then it is best to coat it with a clear spray, or clear nail polish.
Symptoms of a Metal Allergy
Symptoms may occur as fast as 12 hours, but typically you will notice symptoms between 12 and 48 hours. The reaction will typically last between two and four weeks. Symptoms include rash, itching, redness, dry patches or blisters.
Causes of a Metal Allergy
A metal allergy occurs when your body views the metal as a harmful substance. When the harmful substance comes into contact with your body, the immune system has a reaction. Once you have the sensitivity to metal, you will always have this sensitivity. The reaction may occur on any exposure, and is oftentimes inherited. e
Risk Factors of a Metal Allergy
There are a variety of risk factors that are associated with metal allergies. If you have an ear or body piercing, the prolonged use of metal may cause a reaction. Some occupations have more exposure to metal than others. Occupations such as metalworkers, tailors, and hairdressers, come into frequent contact with metal. Females have a higher chance of being at risk for a metal allergy, and an even higher risk if they are overweight. Another major risk factor of having a metal allergy is if there is a family history of metal allergies.
Prevention of a Metal Allergy
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to metal is to avoid it. Look for hypoallergenic jewelry because they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. When getting piercings, be sure to choose the studio carefully. Choose a studio that uses sterile, surgical-grade stainless steel needles. When purchasing your piercing jewelry, choose one that has documentation of metal content on the packaging, as some metals may not cause a reaction. Creating a barrier may also work. This can be done through sewing on a patch to zippers or putting a clear coat on jewelry.
Diagnosis of a Metal Allergy
Typically the diagnosis can be completed by viewing the affected area. In some cases, where the rash is not as apparent, your allergist may request that a patch test be complete. In a patch test, the allergist will place the allergen on your skin and wrap it up for a certain amount of time, usually two days. The allergist will then read the test and confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of a Metal Allergy
There is no cure for a metal allergy, so the best option is to treat the symptoms. Your allergist may prescribe one of the following to improve symptoms: corticosteroid cream, nonsteroidal cream, oral corticosteroid, or an oral antihistamine. Using a soothing lotion may help with itching. Wet compresses are also used to relieve itching and help dry blisters. Phototherapy is a treatment that exposes your skin to artificial ultraviolet light and may help to improve a metal allergy.