Allergic to Metals? Know the Unexpected Places They Can Lurk

When you think of allergy triggers, the first things that probably come to mind are ragweed, pet dander, and foods. But allergies to metals are also very common and affect anywhere between 30-55 million Americans. Like other forms of allergic contact dermatitis, metal allergies can trigger uncomfortable symptoms where your skin touches certain substances, leading to skin blistering, swelling, itching, or a rash

Unfortunately, you can develop allergic responses to several types of metal, including cobalt, chromates, and nickel. While most people associate these metals with costume jewelry, all of them can hide in everyday products in your home that seem completely safe.

Our Advanced Allergy & Asthma team has advanced and specialized training in identifying and managing allergic conditions. If you have a metal allergy, here are a few common places where these pesky substances can hide.

Cell phones

If you’ve noticed a skin rash on your face, jaw, ears, or hands, it could be from your favorite tech device. That’s because metals like chromium and nickel are present in almost all cell phone casings. To limit direct contact with these irritants, we recommend using your phone with a headset, Bluetooth, or speaker mode.

Tattoo inks and needles

Before getting that new body art, you should spend some time talking to your artist. Not only do many tattoo inks contain high levels of chromium, cobalt, nickel, and mercury, but the needles themselves can also contain chromium and nickel. If you have sensitive skin but aren’t sure you have a metal allergy, we recommend scheduling a consultation and allergy testing before booking a tattoo appointment.

Clothing

When you’re shopping for the perfect outfit, the buttons and hardware probably don’t attract your attention. But rivets, buttons, and zippers can all contain enough metal to trigger an allergic reaction. Fortunately, you don’t have to ditch your favorite duds for sweats and tracksuits. If your clothing has metal closures that come in contact with your skin, try coating them with clear nail polish. Taking this step can help reduce your exposure to potential irritants.

Beauty products

It’s hard to imagine heavy metals lurking in your favorite soaps or cosmetics, but the FDA recently learned that many beauty products contain arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, and nickel. While the levels they found wouldn’t pose a health risk, they could certainly cause issues for those with metal allergies.

Eyeglasses

You probably expect that cheap piece of jewelry to cause an allergic reaction. But your glasses? Believe it or not, metals like nickel and cobalt make a great alloy, meaning they easily combine with other metals. So, if you’re noticing an allergic reaction where your skin comes in contact with your glasses, your frames could be to blame. If you have a metal allergy, we recommend choosing options made with stainless steel or plastic to avoid issues.

Artificial joints and implants

Considering a joint replacement or dental work? Many devices implanted in your body — like plates, joints, pins, and rods — come in titanium, a type of metal. Before undergoing your procedure, we recommend talking to your doctor about the materials they plan on using and undergoing allergy testing to determine it’s a good option for you.

To learn more about metal allergies or to schedule allergy testing, contact us by calling one of our convenient Ogden, Utah, locations.

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