Contact Dermatitis – Nickel

September 13th, 2010

Nickel is an extremely common allergen that causes rashes affecting up to 15% of the population and I frequently encounter this skin condition in both my The Woodlands dermatology and Conroe dermatology offices.  The most common location for a nickel allergy is on the abdomen where the button of pants and shorts touches the skin.  This repeated exposure over time can lead to an intense rash at the site of the contact with nickel as well as an id reaction (secondary rash) as other more distant areas of the skin begin to develop a rash.  Topical steroids are used to treat the rash, but it is essential to avoid contact with nickel. This can be done by first identifying all sources of nickel using a chemical called dimethylglyoxime, which is a clear liquid that can be put on a Q-tip and touched to metal suspected of having nickel.  If nickel is present, the Q-tip turns pink.  The nickel in buttons can be covered in duct tape or clear nail polish to avoid direct skin contact.  Many gold earrings are mixed with nickel and can be responsible for an earlobe rash.  The higher the carat gold the less amount of nickel it is alloyed with.  Nickel can also be found in certain foods such as nuts, beans, peas and chocolate.