The best strategy to prevent a nickel allergy from developing is to avoid prolonged exposure to items containing nickel. If you already have a nickel allergy, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with the metal.
However, it's not always easy to avoid nickel because it's present in so many products. Home test kits are available to check for nickel in metal items.
The following tips may help you avoid nickel exposure:
Wear hypoallergenic jewelry
Avoid jewelry that contains nickel. Purchase jewelry that's made of materials that aren't likely to cause allergic reactions. Look for jewelry made from such metals as nickel-free stainless steel, surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, 18-karat yellow gold, or nickel-free yellow gold and sterling silver.
Surgical-grade stainless steel may contain some nickel, but it's generally considered hypoallergenic for most people. Be sure that your earring backings also are made of hypoallergenic materials.
Choose a piercing studio carefully
Check with your state or local health department to find out what rules apply to your area and be certain to choose a studio that follows these rules. Visit a studio before getting a piercing to make sure that the piercer provides a clean, professional environment.
Also, check to be sure the studio uses sterile, nickel-free or surgical-grade stainless steel needles in sealed packages. If the studio uses a piercing gun, check to see if the part that touches the person getting pierced isn't used on other customers. Check that the studio only sells hypoallergenic jewelry and can provide documentation of metal content of the products for sale.
Use substitute materials
Look for safer substitutes for common nickel-containing items:
- Watchbands made of leather, cloth or plastic
- Zippers or clothing fasteners made of plastic or coated metals
- Plastic or titanium eyeglass frames
Create a barrier
If you have to be exposed to nickel at work, creating a barrier between you and the nickel may help. If your hands have to touch nickel, wearing gloves may help.
Try covering buttons, snaps, zippers or tool handles with duct tape or with a clear barrier, such as Nickel Guard. Clear nail polish on jewelry may help, but may have to be reapplied often.