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A Discussion of Nickel Allergy – Dr. Kevin O’Brien at IMMUNOe Allergy & Asthma Center

Did you know you can get “hand eczema” from nickel allergy, even if you are staying away from metal on you, because of nickel in the food you eat?

Females tend to know they are nickel allergic because they get a rash from “cheap” earrings. Males are often not as aware that they even have nickel allergy but it tends to show up as a rash around their belly button area from the metal button on their jeans (or a rash from a watch). If someone is not sure if they have this allergy, they can come to the allergy office and get a “patch test” for nickel allergy (and other contact allergies).

It is estimated that about 14% of the population is nickel allergic. It is causing more and more concern because a lot of the “titanium” implants that are used for knee or hip replacements (or rods in the spinal columns) are not actually 100% titanium. They contain a tiny amount of nickel to make them stronger. That small amount of nickel can cause swelling and tenderness in the nickel allergic patients.

It is known that some people with nickel allergy start to get eczema such as hand rashes from ingesting nickel through food. They should start themselves on a “nickel free diet” (Google this term to see what to avoid). There is no way to have a totally “nickel free diet” but at least it should be a “low nickel diet”. Some foods higher in nickel are baked beans, salmon, shell fish, soy powder, broccoli, peas, pineapple, prunes, buckwheat, lettuce, tomato, linseed, chocolate, nuts, oats, grains, or canned fruits and nuts. Also be aware that stainless steel is iron plus chromium plus nickel. Acidic foods (such as tomato sauce) can leach nickel out of the pan and it gets in the food.
If you are not able to control rashes or swellings and have a history of nickel allergy (or want to get tested), then see the allergist.

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