Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

You may use some of the following treatments at home to treat contact dermatitis due to nickel allergy. If these treatments don't help or the rash worsens, contact your doctor. Home remedies include the following:

  • Use soothing lotions, such as calamine lotion, which may ease itching.
  • Moisturize regularly. Your skin has a natural barrier that's disrupted when it reacts to nickel and other allergens. Using emollient creams or lotions, such as petroleum jelly or mineral oil, could reduce your need for topical corticosteroids.
  • Apply wet compresses, which can help dry blisters and relieve itching. Soak a clean cloth in tap water or Burow's solution, an over-the-counter medication containing aluminum acetate.

Avoid certain over-the-counter ointments, such as antibiotic creams, which may contain ingredients — particularly neomycin — that can worsen an allergic reaction.

Prevention

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.