Nickel allergies are not like an allergy to dogs or ragweed, it is a Type IV hypersensitivity response; which makes it more like transplant rejection or an allergy to medication. Allergens (in this case nickel) bind to cells, activating certain T lymphocytes, which recognize and attack these cells. This leads to damage in the surrounding tissues. This first contact sets off an immune reaction; whenever the T lymphocytes encounter this allergen, it sets off a major allergic reaction. Because the activation of the T lymphocytes takes some time, the allergic reaction first occurs 12 to 72 hours after contact with the allergen.
Not everyone who suffers from a nickel allergy has the same limitations. Some people simply can’t wear cheap jewelry, while others may have to forgo consuming foods that have high nickel content. For anyone who suffers from a nickel allergy it is important to make sure any doctor, dentist, or other medical professional in charge of your care is aware of your allergy. Many medical devices (from braces to IUDs to knee replacements) contain nickel. While wearing nickel jewelry causes skin rashes and infections at the piercing site, surgical implantation of an item containing nickel can cause serious and systemic issues for those who are allergic to it. If you’re worried that you have a nickel allergy ask for a patch test, or a (potentially more accurate) blood test to make sure before you have anything permanently affixed to your body.
Signs you may have a nickel allergy:
- Wearing inexpensive (non-gold/platinum/fine silver) earrings hurts your ears or results in infections at the piercing site. This may happen even with earrings marked “hypoallergenic” as even surgical steel contains some nickel.
- You don’t wear a lot of jewelry, even if your ears are unpierced. Or you find that necklaces make your skin feel itchy or they even cause a rash.
- After enjoying good health, you fall ill and can’t seem to fully recover after you get braces, an IUD, or a medical implant (including stents).
- You have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, and believe the diagnosis is incorrect.
Tomorrow we will post about what to do if you have a nickel allergy