• By Vivien Williams

Mayo Clinic Minute: Are you allergic to jewelry?

July 26, 2018

If you have a metal allergy, wearing jewelry can wreak havoc on your skin. A pair of earrings or a necklace can cause an itchy, red rash to develop in hours or days. The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men are allergic to nickel, which is the metal found in lots of jewelry.

Dr. Dawn Davis, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, says the rash caused by nickel allergy is a type of contact dermatitis, and she has tips for how to handle metal allergy-related rashes.

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If you have a metal allergy, wearing your favorite piece of jewelry can cause an itchy rash called “allergic contact dermatitis.”

“Nickel is the more common metal allergy, followed secondly by gold,” says Dr. Davis.

Dr. Davis says metal is also in eyeglasses, watches, belt buckles, zippers, buttons and snaps. So if you think metal is causing you to break out, Dr. Davis says you should stop wearing it.

“We can do something called 'patch testing,'" Davis says. "Patch testing is where we take a small, inert disk and place a little bit of metal within the disk ... [Then we] place it on your back.”

The test can help determine which metals you should avoid. So what should you do at home to soothe the rash? Dr. Davis recommends washing the area with a gentle hypoallergenic soap.

“You may also try some low-strength, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream once or twice a day.”

She says there’s no need to worry about nickel in food. But you might have to upgrade your jewelry to titanium or platinum. Safe but expensive.

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