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Are You Allergic to your CELL PHONE?

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According to a report in Science Daily, talking too much via cell can actually trigger an allergic reaction to the nickel in your cell phone! This was reported last fall at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Phoenix. From cosmetics to jewelry, body piercings to tattoos, allergies can lurk in unlikely places, state the allergists. “Increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to the nickel in phones,” said allergist Luz Fonacier, MD, ACAAI Fellow. “Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction.”

Nickel is one of the most common contact allergens, and affects up to 17% of women and 3% of men. Skin contact with objects that contain nickel, like keys, coins and paper clips are generally so brief that a nickel allergy may not occur on the area of contact. However, even in these brief exposures, your fingers can transfer the nickel to your face and cause irritation. The risk of allergy to nickel is increased by frequent, prolonged exposure to nickel-containing items, such as cell phones, jewelry (especially inexpensive jewelry which often contains a lot of nickel), watches, and eyeglass frames. Allergic reaction to nickel can appear as redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions, oozing and even scarring.

“Allergists are seeing increasing numbers of nickel allergy among patients,” said Dr. Fonacier. “Some researchers suggest that there should be more nickel regulation in the U.S. like there is in some European countries.”

How to avoid an allergic reaction to nickel

Avoiding direct skin contact is the best way to avoid an allergic reaction. For cell phones, use a plastic film cover, a wireless ear piece, or switch to a phone that does not contain metal on surfaces that contact your skin, suggests Dr. Fonacier.

Nickel is found in Body Piercings & Tattoos

You can also have an allergic reaction to piercing and tattoos. Statistics estimate that 24% of people 18 to 50 have tattoos and 14% have body piercings. “Allergic reactions from tattoos come mainly from the pigments used to color the dye,” said Dr. Fonacier. “The issue with piercing goes back to the increasing prevalence of nickel allergies. Some researchers suggest we delay introduction of ear piercing until children are older than 10 years.”

Nickel in your Cosmetics

“It’s well known that our everyday cosmetic products contain many substances that cause allergies,” said Dr. Fonacier. “Although the cosmetic industry is one of the largest in the world, it is not highly regulated in the U.S. The average person uses 12 personal products a day. Those 12 products may contain up to 168 chemicals, many of which can be an irritant or a substance that causes an allergic reaction.” Nearly 22% of everyone patch tested for allergies react to chemicals in cosmetics, according to Dr. Fonacier. Nickel is fairly common in eye shadows, as an example.

Also in your detergent

Although nickel isn’t present in the detergent itself, it’s often used in detergent processing process, ie, when the detergent’s products are combined. If you switch detergents and suddenly develop a rash, it could be from the nickel, as well as a myriad of other substances either present in the detergent itself or during processing.

Although we aren’t allergists here at Reflections Center in New Jersey, we certainly want to help you keep your skin healthy!