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Nickel allergy is a common cause of jewelry reactions


Nickel allergy is one of the most common reasons for reactions to various jewelry. It mainly manifests itself as allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). The prevalence of this allergy worldwide is estimated at an average of 8.6% in both adults and children. 

However, there are significant geographic differences. In Europe, nickel allergy occurs, according to various sources, in 8-19% of adults and in 8-10% of children and adolescents, with a strong predominance among women and girls.

The highest prevalence of nickel allergy is observed in Italy at 32%, and the lowest in Denmark (9.7%).

In the United States, 16.2% of the population is allergic to nickel, according to reports from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG). Moreover, among women under 18, this figure is 36%.

In general, women suffer from this ailment 3-10 times more often than men. This is usually associated with daily contact with jewelry, clothing, wristwatches, or other items.  

Allergy to nickel often affects representatives of a number of professions. In particular, cashiers, hairdressers, jewelers, dental technicians, auto mechanics and others who often come into contact with this metal in their work.

Moreover, if you think that you are not allergic to nickel because you do not use it, then it is better to reconsider your jewelry set.

If you develop a rash, say after wearing a gold or silver chain, don’t be too quick to talk about allergies to gold or silver. Perhaps the reason should also be sought in nickel.


Precious metals in jewelry such as gold and silver are often nickel-alloyed. That is, nickel is plated with gold or silver. This makes the product durable, improves color and reduces the cost of the decoration.

The lower the fineness of gold or silver (also called carat), the less pure precious metal in the product. For example, it is known that bank gold has the highest purity (24 carats) and contains 99.9% gold.

Whereas, for example, 18 carats (750 carat) is already 75% of gold, and, accordingly, 25% of other metal. It is believed to reduce the risk of developing sensitivity to nickel by choosing jewelry made from at least 585 fineness, which corresponds to 14 carats. But the 550 sample (12 carats), where gold is only 50%, is considered to carry an increased risk of developing an allergic reaction.

However, gold or silver can be alloyed not only with nickel, but also with other metals.

For example, if white gold is usually alloyed with nickel, then yellow gold can be alloyed with silver and copper.

Rhodium, a silvery white metal associated with platinum, is often used to turn white gold into yellow gold. And even white gold with nickel is often rhodium plated to make it white and shiny.

And then there are coper and rose gold, which are an alloy of gold and copper. This combination can cause reactions in people with copper sensitivities. Another alloy is bres, which is a mixture of copper and zinc. And in the manufacture of silver jewelry, brass is often used. If your skin turns green after wearing a necklace or earrings, then the jewelry most likely includes some brass. Brass is actually an alloy of copper and zinc. Therefore, if you are allergic to brass, you are probably also allergic to copper.

However, the original gold or silver plating should protect you from any nickel. But over time, it can wear out. And, as a result, after some time, perhaps several years, there is a direct contact of the skin with the allergen. He becomes the cause of an allergic reaction.


Researchers studying the relationship between the amount of nickel and the likelihood of a reaction to it indicate that 4 mg of nickel is enough for 70% of healthy people to develop allergies. A dose of 1 mg of nickel sulfate is sufficient to cause dermatitis in 40% of people who were not previously allergic to nickel.

Back in the 90s of the last century, the EU legally limited the permissible levels of nickel in various products. However, there is evidence that susceptible people can react even at low levels of this metal (if the release of nickel from nickel-containing alloys and coatings per centimeter of skin for a week is less than 0.5 μg / cm ).

Scientists also do not exclude that some people have a genetic predisposition to such allergies. Thus, women who are sensitized to nickel have a high prevalence of HLA-B35 and BW22 antigens.

Allergic contact dermatitis is more common among people who have childhood asthma or hay fever.

In addition, ear piercings are the most common cause of nickel sensitization. About 81.5% of women who test positive for nickel have pierced ears.

Nickel allergic contact dermatitis occurs when metal objects are “eaten away” by a person’s sweat or saliva. As a result, free nickel ions are released, which act as haptens, causing sensitization. Consequently, nickel allergies are more common in countries with warmer climates.


In addition to jewelry, nickel is often found in such items:

· Buckles for bras,      

· Lightning      

· Fasteners on clothing,      

· Buttons,      

· Coins,      

· Crockery,      

· Pens,      

· Paper clip,      

· Tools      

· Keys,      

· The scope of points      

· Mobile Phones      

· Medical devices      

· Laptops or computer tablets      

· Electronic cigarettes.      

Another source that can lead to sensitization to nickel is food.

Nickel can be found in trace amounts in products such as:

· Black tea      

· Soy milk      

· Seeds and nuts      

· bananas      

· Chocolate and cocoa powder      

· Some canned and processed foods      

· cereals      

· asparagus      

· oats      

· Bread of several kinds of beans, broccoli,      

· Sprouts buckwheat, whole wheat, and wheat germ      

· beans      

· Spinach.      

But if the presence of nickel in food is not regulated, then the content of nickel in drinking water in the EU countries is allowed no more than 20 μg / l. There were reports that the water, which contained 53 μg / L, caused dermatitis of the face.  

Nickel allergy is often associated with reactivity with other metals, mainly chromium and cobalt. But whether this is the result of cross-reactivity or multiple sensitization is still debated.


The mildest skin reaction to jewelry is a green spot on the skin. But, as it turned out, it has nothing to do with allergies or even skin sensitivity. This stain is attributed to the oxidation of jewelry such as 18K gold by sweat.

The main consequence of nickel sensitivity is allergic contact dermatitis. This itchy rash usually appears in areas that have been in contact with the allergen.

Typically, symptoms begin 12 to 48 hours after nickel exposure and can last up to two to four weeks.

Nickel allergy signs and symptoms include:

· redness      

· Rash or skin elation      

· Itching, which may be strong      

· Redness or discoloration of the skin      

· Dry spots on the skin that may resemble a burn      

· Bubbles with the liquid (in severe cases)      

· If the affected area is not treated, the skin may become darker, rougher and cracked.      

· In severe cases, the rash may spread and worsen with sweat.      


The best strategy for preventing the development of nickel allergy is to avoid prolonged exposure to items containing nickel.

For mild symptoms, hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine tablets may help.

However, to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other problems, it is better to consult a doctor. A specialist will conduct the necessary testing and recommend remedies for eliminating allergy symptoms.

There are also kits that allow you to identify the presence of nickel in metal. They consist of a liquid that turns pink on contact with nickel.

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