First it’s important to realize that a nickel allergy is a threshold allergy. This means that as long as a person who has the allergy isn’t exposed to too much of it, she will be fine. How much nickel is too much will vary from person to person, as everyone with the allergy has a different threshold. There are a few things you can do to get relief if you happen to have a nickel allergy.
Avoid or Eliminate Medically Attached/Implanted Nickel Products. This means avoiding the implantation of nickel into your body (surgical pins, braces and permanent retainers, IUDs or more permanent devices like Essure, joint replacements, etc.) or removing whatever ones you feasibly can, will make the biggest difference. As the medical world becomes more aware of the serious consequences of nickel allergies, professionals are starting to offer nickel-free alternatives. You should ask your doctor or orthodontist about nickel-free devices if you believe you have a nickel allergy. If they say they aren’t aware of nickel-free items, you may need to be proactive and look for alternatives on your own.
In some instances, you can have a device that is causing you havoc removed or replaced by your medical provider. This probably isn’t feasible or advisable if it’s a life-sustaining device, of course. However the majority of these devices can be removed or replaced safety; bringing you relief from symptoms. Once removed, you will most likely experience immediate improvement to your health - but remember that the problem will not go away overnight or even that month. This is because nickel can be deposited in various soft tissues and your body needs time to heal, removing the offending devices is simply the first step. This allergy will not go away any more than will, say, a cat allergy. Your good health will depend on you keeping nickel levels low (they can never be at zero so this can get tricky). Also remember to aid in your healing by eating healthy foods, exercising, and keeping your stressors low. Some people find that a low nickel diet is necessary to keep them healthy, but many people are fine once they remove the device and take time to heal – as long as they avoid nickel products in the future.
Don’t Smoke. You’ve been hearing this your entire life. And here is another reason to abandon any aspirations you have of being a smoker. Tobacco contains nickel in itsnatural state, and the way that it is processed introduces even more nickel. And you are inhaling it directly into your lungs. If you smoke, or are exposed to second-hand smoke, be aware that commercial cigarettes, specifically, will irritate your allergy. Notably e-cigarettes emit even more nickel than their low-tech counterparts.
Take Care to Keep Your Iron and Zinc Levels High. Studies have shown that people who are iron deficient have higher levels of nickel. Your body will make up for other deficiencies by upping your nickel content, so to speak. To combat the absorption of nickel, make sure that your body has plenty of iron and zinc. This means eating a healthy, balanced diet or, at the least, taking supplements. Even if you already have too much nickel in your body consuming more zinc could help lower your nickel levels, providing very welcome aid to your liver.
Wear The Finest Of Jewelry. This is definitely my favorite of all recommendations! Finer jewelry will contain little to no nickel. Many metals are composites of a variety of metals. Nickel is a popular addition to composites because it’s durable and inexpensive. Most people don’t mind, but those with nickel allergies can really suffer. Remember that items marked “sensitive solutions” may not work for you if you're particularly sensitive.
- Most companies consider surgical steel to be hypoallergenic, however it contains enough nickel to irritate some people with nickel allergies.
- The next quality level would be sterling silver. If surgical steel causes you problems, try the sterling silver. It contains less nickel. However, you may still have a reaction and will have to move to the next level.
- The lady with a severe nickel allergy is “lucky” indeed. She requires 18k (yellow) Gold or Platinum gifts of jewelry. It’s expensive but, hey, you need this! In fact, if you’re getting a piercing of any type, insist on a gold stud to keep your piercing infection free and to reduce your chances of acquiring a nickel allergy. Ear piercing is believed to be a sensitizing event for many women, so if you're going to have your daughter's ears pierced, take the same precaution. Remember that white gold is made white by being mixed with other metals, almost always including nickel. There are some other types of metal that are totally nickel free, but they are not as commonly found at your local jewelry store.
So here is a simple breakdown of ways to try and relieve your symptoms. These are in no particular order: do what makes sense for you:
- Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke
- Try a low nickel diet (we will share one with you in the next day or two)
- Ensure you're getting enough iron and zinc in your diet; consider taking a supplement. Be cautious about multivitamins because some contain nickel.
- Do not wear jewelry made of anything less than sterling silver, and remember that even jewelry marked as hypoallergenic may not work for you. This includes even sterling silver, white gold, and for some people even yellow gold under 18k.
- Remove hardware from your body. This can mean permanent retainers, braces, body piercings, IUD’s, even surgical pins or joint replacements. Nickel free alternatives are available in many cases: find a practitioner who will use them!
- If you're particularly sensitive and can't avoid touching metals that contain nickel (e.g., your Mac, your iphone, zippers, purse fasteners, some door handles, etc.) use cases or coatings to create a barrier between you and the offending item. Coatings are available in the form of protective sprays (or paint smaller items with clear nail polish)
- You can test whether an item contains nickel with nickel testing kits. You can order these by clicking on the image below.