Ten tips for coping with Nickel allergy!

Don’t carry loose change or keys and avoid clothes with zips and studs. Great advice for somebody newly diagnosed with a nickel allergy, but in practise, is it really realistic? Unless you’re the Queen or are rich enough to have someone else to drive you around, carry your keys, purse, bag and small change and also shop for you and carry out actual transactions on your behalf the chances are you will struggle to avoid nickel.

Nickel is a very useful and versatile metal compound which helps to strengthen other metals, which explains why it’s used so widely in our world and is quite hard to avoid. Did you know that six hundred million people are allergic to nickel? If you are one of these people you now know you’re not alone, along with Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame who also has a nickel allergy. Don’t despair though, there is loads you can do to minimise your contact and allergic reactions.

Since being diagnosed myself many years ago after very painful attempts to wear earrings I’ve worked out some clever ways to stay nickel free, but it’s not an easy one to completely avoid.

  1. Avoid touching your face and eyes – Some parts of your body are naturally more sensitive so if you are having to come into contact with nickel make sure you avoid touching face and eyes.
  2. Washing your hands – Simply washing your hands after handling that dirty money or other metal objects that you suspect of containing nickel as soon as you can will reduce any adverse reactions.
  3. Wearing gloves
    If you can’t avoid touching nickel, for instance of you work in a shop, you could try to wear some cotton gloves whilst taking transactions at the till. You might think you will look silly doing this but you’ll avoid nasty sores on your hands if you’re really sensitive.
  4. Nickel can pass through thin clothing
    Don’t keep keys and small change loose in your pockets as over time they can begin to rub and react with the skin beneath, depending on how thick the material is.
  5. Stick to 24 carat gold or certified British sterling Silver jewellery
    Like the Queen, you should only wear the best jewellery, so 24 carat gold and British silver are the safest options as they have to adhere to certain standards. They don’t contain any nickel whilst other countries can have different quantites of other metals present in silver. White gold is made from mixing gold with nickel so avoid this completely. Platinum is a safe option as it too is nickel free. There are is loads of funky jewellery that doesn’t contain any metal like leather, ribbon, string or woven necklaces and lots of manufacturers are now making nickel free earrings and other jewellery so ask before you buy.
  6. Be careful with clothing – Nickel can be found in the studs and zips on jeans and the clasps on the waist bands of skirts and on dresses. I believe Levi’s jeans are now nickel free so they’re safe to wear.
  7. Tell your dentist – Some fillings can be mixed with metal compounds so always check with your dentists that a filling or cap they plan to fit doesn’t contain any nickel.
  8. Nickel in food – There are many foods which are high in Nickel content including: Almonds, Asparagus, Baking powder, Brown lentils, Beans, Cabbage, Canned foods, Chocolate, Corn, food cooked with or in nickel-containing utensils, Hazelnuts, Herring, Licorice, Margarine, Mushrooms, Onions, Oysters, Peanuts, Pears, Peas, Raisins, Rhubarb, Spinach, Sprouts, Tea, Tomatoes, Walnuts and Whole meal flour. Thanks to the Steady Health Forum for this list of foods. There might be more foods in this list but I think allergy to nickel in food only happens in very rare cases where the person is severely allergic to nickel so don’t panic. Keep an eye on any unexplained allergic reactions though to see if there is any link to the foods you eat in this group of foods above.
  9. Tell doctors and hospitals – Always let doctors or anyone who is treating you for any medical emergency know that you have a nickel allergy as some instruments may contain nickel. Stainless steel can contain small amounts of nickel.
  10. In the kitchen - finally some kitchen utensils can contain nickel. If you stick to wooden, plastic and nickel free in your kitchen you should be OK, but think about when you eat out and at friend’s houses for dinner. You could consider taking your own cooking pots and utensils and asking a restaurant to use these to cook your meal. Speak to them in advance and explain your predicament and some understanding establishments will helpful.

One thing that can help, but is temporary as it wears off, is clear nail varnish. For a quick fix you can paint your favourite earrings, jewellery or any nickel on clothes with the varnish but this won’t last. Ideally you need to avoid the things that contain nickel for good.

If you or your child has a nickel allergy you might like to read this great blog, Nickel free life.com which is packed full of useful information and links.

Allergy UK also have information on their website and fact sheet to download so visit: www.allergyuk.org to read more on this subject.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She runs a support group for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also writes regularly for Exchange, The National Eczema Society quarterly magazine.

Comments

  1. Renee Danyluk says:

    Great article! Lot’s of good tips. Both my kids and my husband (inerited?) have nickel alergy. We have to think twice before we buy anything that contains metal. It is a real pain. We find a lot on Amazon and we found nickel free belts at http://www.nickelfreebelts.com. Good luck everyone!

    • Thanks Renee. It is tough yes. Getting a new kitchen ti was hard finding nickel free door handles! Almost impossible actually. Watch out for the new proposed coin change for 5p and 10p pieces. They will contain more nickel!

  2. I would like to make a small correction to this article – Sterling Silver actually does contain nickel, I have a nickel allergy and am allergic to many hallmarked necklace chains that I own – I have to be careful to source silver that specifies that it is nickel free. I just thought people should know before they go spending money on Sterling Silver only to find that they’re allergic to it like I did!

    • Do you know, I think you’re right. I’m a bit cross about this because Medicalert sold me a silver bracelet when I was allergic to their normal ones. I’m pretty sure it’s irritating me and I can’t wait to get it off when I get home again. Not great! Thanks for letting me know and thanks for sharing. I know some silver isn’t nickel free but always thought British silver should be. I stand corrected.

    • I am severely sensitive to Nickel – but I can wear sterling silver, without any dramas, but have had dramas with surgical steel – not always, just certain things, so maybe it is all dependant on the amount that is present.

  3. Mark Hughes says:

    Hi all I have just found out that I am allergic to nickel after 10 years of doctors telling me I’m not. So now I’m looking for products that don’t contain nickel, I’d heard Levi jean do not have nickel in them but to be sure I emailed them. Here is what they said:-
    te >——————–
    Hello im highly allergic to nickel that is found in most metals. Could you tell me if you Jeans have Nickel in the buttons and studs? or which of your products are Nickel free please?

    Hi, Betty here from Levi Strauss & Co. Thanks for reaching out to us.

    All of our products are nickel free.

    Thanks again,

    Betty
    Levi Strauss & Co.
    Consumer Relations
    Case ID: 3988636

    For a “behind-the-seams” look at what’s going on with Levi Strauss & Co. subscribe to our blog at: http://levistrauss.com/blogs/subscribe

  4. Hi, do you know if cleaning your teeth with toothpaste that has baking soda in it can bring out symptoms in someone who has a nickel allergy? I try to avoid most foods with high nickel content but hadn’t thought about toothpaste before and see you have baking powder listed as being high in nickel. Baking powder and soda are related right?

    • Baking powder has nickel in it; baking soda does not. I am sensitive to baking powder but I can brush my teeth with baking soda. Be sure to let your water run for 10 seconds before you wet your toothbrush in case the water has picked up nickel from the brass in the tap.

      • Now this could be why sometimes, cakes I make cause me a mild problem. Thank you so much for sharing this. I wonder what you can use in baking instead of baking powder?

  5. susan jean pearson says:

    HI EVERYONE I HAD NICKEL PROBLEM FOR 25 YEARS NOW .IT STARTED WITH MY GLASSES ZIPS BELTS NOW I GETTING SORES ALL OVER MY BODY IT DRIVING ME MAD I TAKING TABLETS AND STERIOD NOW IT WITH THE FOOD SO I FINDING VERY HARD TO DEAL WITH I NEED HELP

  6. What do i do about hypodermic needles that are nickle coated? I’m having a reaction at this moment.

    • Hi Dianne, I’m not sure about this. I discovered that stainless steel contained nickel when I became allergic to my medic alert bracelet of all things. Crazy! I found this study http://www.e-ijd.org/article.asp?issn=0019-5154;year=2011;volume=56;issue=2;spage=237;epage=238;aulast=Mehta which details other cases of people who reacted to nickel in hyperdermic needles and other medical instruments, so you are not alone. It could also explain why I have been having very bad skin and all over itching since a lot dental work and numerous injections. However if this is the case I am not sure what you do about it. I am on the case now as I’m convinced this could explain why, whenever I am on a drip at hospital (not often thankfully) I become very sensitive over time, flush read and have a mild allergic reaction. What worries me is that the reaction would be worse over time! If I find out anything I will let you know.

  7. Nick Woodward says:

    I have a painfull [ burn] from what I believe is a reaction to loose change in my pocket when I put work gloves which were probably full of my sweat in my pocket [work trousers] during a tea break period. Kind regards Nick

  8. I have a skin allergy for almost 5 months…i cannot sleep and my hands are very itchy sometimes it bleeds…the doctor said that this allergy called dishydrotic ecsema.. he gave me some anti histamine, hypo with Dexa lotion and a cream called clobetasole 0.05%…I continue using this medicine for 7 days and it works..I didn’t use my gloves anymore but I am avoiding to use detergent soap and any products containing nickel.. if you want to know more just email me.thanks

  9. I have been getting allergy shots forever for a mold allergy. For two years now, I have been having severe reactions to something on my face which it is mostly the skin around my eyes and eye lids. They get red raw and swollen. The allergist, dermatologist and eye dr kept passing the buck. Finally I couldn’t deal with it anymore and found a new dermatologist who suggested patch testing. It was a miracle, we found my problems. I am allergic to nickel, gold, bacitracin and fragrances. I am just going to live in a bubble. So difficult to get away from nickel and fragrances. I also heard that nickel is in cell phone cases so you are better off with a rubber case. You can buy a nickel test kit to see if your jewelry contains nickel. When I had food allergy testing done it is funny how I am allergic or have a sensitivity to all of the foods you listed and why is that, because they contain nickel. This allergy is a pain in the neck, but at least I know now. Would you suggest that I get an allergy bracelet for these or not?

  10. I recently realised that nickel is used in the manufacture of margarine – which is why it is a high nickel food, and finally realised why I have hated margarine and why it makes me sick, when I eat it. Only took my 40 years.

    • I think we should listen to our bodies more. They try to tell us what not to eat. Milk was always disgusting to me and now I’m seriously allergic to it. Tomatoes and celery the same – like poison. Just the smell of nuts makes me sick too. It’s very interesting. Good luck with the nickel food avoidance. It is hidden in so many types of foods. Margerine is also very very processed. Have you tried coconut oil instead? I’m trying one I got from Goodness Direct which isn’t strongly coconut tasting so works quite well kind of a spread if you need one and in cooking.

  11. Hi I’m 15 I have never been told I have nickel allergies when I got allergy tests don’t but I can’t wear any cheap earrings my ears get super sore. Even nickel free earrings from Clare’s I can’t whear they do have nickel in them. Last year I started wearing jeans from old navy and I have sores on my lower admin it sucks it itches so bad I’ve come to the reason I much be allergic and its annoying. They are one of those allergies that are a pain In the butt like dust and dust mites. I find a clear nail polish works on jeans it helped so much last year need to put it on my new jeans tho. Good luck all my fellow nickel allergy sufferers

    • Hi Jamie, I hear your pain. I used to have my ears peirced and the only metal I could wear was sterling silver, and even that sometimes reacted and 24 carat gold. We should have been born rich hey? I find lots of stainless steel jewellery can irritate me and my wedding ring ended up being platinum (expensive) because that was all they could guarantee wouldn’t have some nickel in. As for jeans, have you tried Levi’s? They do a nickel free jean, I’m not sure if all their jeans are nickel free so do check. I know they are the most expensive jeans out there but maybe try to buy a pair on amazon to see if you like them. Or look out for them in charity shops. You can get some really good condition clothes in charity shops. Are you allergic to dust and dust mites too? I am as well and that is one of the hardest allergies to live with – worse than some of the food allergies because I can NEVER avoid it totally.

  12. joan edwards says:

    I would like to add further to your nickel allergy check-lists: – I’ve been totally unable to replace my Toyota Hilux ignition key with a non-nickel content key. I have found some keys, especially the Toyota, to be very reactive with nickel content. This is a problem when you are in and out of the car a lot during the day. I have covered with sellotape partially. May try varnish as well. Regards, Joan

    • I hadn’t even thought of car keys… does anyone know of a low nickel car key out there? I’m guessing it’s unlikely because the nickel content makes the metal stronger and cheaper. YOu could wear gloves to drive… very Downton Abbey.

  13. Athena Allergy’s Nickel Guard is a good product for coating earrings to protect from nickel. It could also work on the part of the key the fingers touch, but probably should not be painted onto the part that goes into the ignition. They also have nickel free jean rivets and buttons.

    • Thank you, Rita, for that suggestion.
      Just for interest, I am in the process of obtaining from a panelbeater a two-pot clear very hard coating for painting onto many of the nickel-containing items around the house.
      I have found (with the help of a nickel-testing kit) that some of the worst items are not those that one would suspect: – the worst are the handels and metal trim of fairly old fridges and also window catches dating from the ’60?s or 70?s here. Surprise!
      Regards, Joan

  14. If I may make an addition to your article, Many people think of an allergic reaction to food as your airway swelling shut or hives but I would like to make sure that your readers understand a food allergy can present itself with the only noticeable symptoms as simple as “gas”. There may be other symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, acne, eczema, swelling (legs are common but anywhere can happen), ADHD, to list a few. Anything that you eat is dispersed throughout your body so we can not “pigeon hole” It to one symptom.
    A year ago if you had told me that I food allergies I would have told you that I was diagnosed with IBS (but I can’t wear jewlery) and that they don’t know what causes it, but an event happened in January where my lip swelled up while eating almonds. So I got tested and found out that I am allergic to:
    oatmeal,
    ALL legumes, green beans and peas included,
    ALL nuts (excluding Brazilian and Cashews)
    Coffee
    Soy
    canola (rapeseed)
    spinach
    carrots
    watermelon
    and Wheat
    I have to be very careful of my drinking water too, It has to be filtered.(Rusty old pipes)
    Lucky me! Many of those foods were foods that I regularly ate. In fact in the state I live it is law that restaurants must cook with vegetable oil (which is usually soy or canola). I was very sick, overweight, exhausted, and couldn’t hold a thought. I had all the symptoms I mentioned above (except acne) I had a doctor who wanted to diagnose me with Lupus, she did tons of lab work even had a biopsy done on my swollen leg, but everything came back negative except that my inflammation was off the charts. Thank God I now know what the problem really is and am loosing weight and I have ankles again and feeling better as each day goes by. I think If you have good insurance that people should get tested. It is more common that most people think.
    Thanks for letting me share
    Cheryl

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