Sharing stories, knowledge, and rants about living with metal allergies.

I Hate Nickel


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Testing Stuff For Nickel

When you have a nickel allergy, nothing will ever take it away, but there are a few products that can make life easier.  My case is somewhat severe, but an estimated 10-15% of the population has a nickel allergy in some form.  The solution most often listed on the internet and on blogs is: “Don’t touch stuff with nickel in it”!  Like magically, that’s going to solve all your problems!  Look around – how many metal things do you see in the room around you right now?  I bet it’s a lot!  Unfortunately, avoiding everything shiny and silver is not the answer to end all.   

The first time I looked around and saw all the shiny, metal things surrounding me that had now become my arch-enemy, I cried.  It was overwhelming.  Mind-numbingly, catastrophically, overwhelming.  I imagined horrifying scenarios a la The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.  The world was trying to kill me.  Everywhere I looked, there was something of which a mere touch would make me ill.  I was Superman trapped in a world made of kryptonite.

What was my life to become?  How could I even begin to face this?

I realized I had to attack the problem like any other.  I asked myself the question – if the environment is trying to hurt me, what part of the environment can I control?  The answer was easy – my home.  I can’t change Mother Nature, I can’t change my favorite restaurant down the street, and I can’t easily change my work environment, but I can change my own home.  I would guess that I spend more than 50% of a 24 hour day in my home.  That’s a HUGE change that was in my power to make. 

So I stopped worrying about everything “out there” and focused on making my home safe.  I don't have to live in a house made of kryptonite.  This was something I could control.

Step One.  Identify the nickel in my home and remove it.

There is a wonderful little kit made by the folks at Allerderm that allows you to test stuff for nickel content.  You put the test liquid on a cotton swab, swipe it across an item, and if the swab turns pink, the item contains nickel.  The solution causes no harm to the item, so you can use it on anything - door knobs, fine jewelry, buttons, clasps, tools.  You can even take the kit with you shopping, so you know before you buy!  (That is, as long as you don’t mind the strange looks while you cotton swab products in the store)!  The kit can be purchased here.

I tested every single item in my house.  Any jewelry that failed the test, I gave away.  Any clothing with zippers or buttons that failed, I gave away.  Luckily the door knobs and cabinet knobs in our house were ok, but if necessary cabinet knobs could have been replaced with wooden knobs.   I replaced all of my cooking utensils with wooden or plastic versions.  If it failed the nickel test, I got rid of it.  I can’t remove nickel from the world, but I can definitely remove it from my own home.

Step Two.  If you can’t toss it, coat it.

In the case where there are nickel items that can’t be removed or tossed out, what do you do?  For example, replacing all the door handles in the house with more expensive versions that are less likely to contain nickel, may not always be an option.  In that case, a clear coat of varnish or nail polish over the item will prevent it from coming into contact with skin.  Now, I didn’t have to go as far as this poor lady, but a coat of clear nail polish over a favorite piece of jewelry or a suspect door knob will keep it from causing a rash. 

So, what do I always have on hand?  A nickel test kit and a bottle of clear nail polish.  As a rule, I simply don’t purchase items with metal that could come into contact with my skin, but occasionally something slips through.  I've also reached the understanding that I can control my home, but I cannot control the rest of the world.  Having these two items ready and available helps keep me and my skin healthy.