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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
You may also be interested in Alex Gazzola’s new book, ‘The Metal Allergy Guide‘.
Allergy UK also have information on their website and fact sheet to download so visit: www.allergyuk.org to read more on this subject.