ASK THE ALLERGISTA: Can you give me advice for my nickel allergy?

ask_the_allergista

Q:

Thank you for your blog. I always had an allergy to nickel, however, it has always been just a localized reaction and to jewelry on the particular area I was wearing it.

Since early November, I have been getting severe allergic reactions on my eyelids, swelling, red patches, stinging, watery eyes, sagging eyelids, irritation, and redness. Sometimes, red bumps would appear as well. I went on a few rounds of steroid ointments on my lids and this helped initially, but it kept coming back. I found out I am allergic to mold, ragweed and dustmites, however, even after the seasons changed, it persisted. I went back and got patch testing and since I am also 15 weeks pregnant, they said that 1/3 of women can get heightened reactions to their allergies during pregnancy and it could be just the nickel.

I am really trying to deal with this, but it is so hard. I cannot wear makeup, never touch my eyes, so don't understand how it spread there. I had my mouth appliance changed for TMJ since it had some nickel, stopped using a fan at night,got different tweezers, bobby pins, and am trying to put clear nail polish on everything I own that has nickel. I also am trying to find a new hair iron that is nickel free, but I don't know what other precautions to take. Do you have a good recommendation for hair iron? I think I saw one on your blog. Do you have any advice on my issue and why it has suddenly spread to my eyes only and am having difficulty getting it to go away? I was convinced it was the nickel appliance in my mouth, but now I am not so sure, since the eyes still have patches and some swelling, but they are a bit better.

Do you know how long it will take for the reaction to actually go down? I have heard it can take a long time after the area is repeatedly exposed and reacting continuously for months. Any suggestions for good makeup/mascara that is nickel free? I am so confused and especially during pregnancy and dealing with other health issues, I would really appreciate your expert advice on some products that worked for you and you did not have reactions as well as coping and how long it takes for your reactions to subside. Have you ever heard of nickel getting much worse in pregnancy?

Thanks so much in advance.

A:

Hi!

Wow, I'm sorry to hear that you're dealing with this! It's sounds awfully uncomfortable and painful not to mention terribly inconvenient.

My reaction to nickel is pretty severe, but I don't think after eliminating the nickel irritant that it's taken longer than two weeks. Usually, eliminating whatever it is that I'm touching will stop it from getting worse and then it begins to heal.

I'm really concerned that you were putting steroid ointment on your eyelids! Steroid ointment is REALLY strong, can think your skin and cause your skin to become dependent upon it. I only use it when I'm having a bad flare and keep it away from any thin skin such as eyelids.

I DO have an awesome nickel free flat iron. You can read about that here. None of my makeup contains nickel and actually... I didn't know that makeup would! I'd have to look into that. Here's what I use on a daily basis, though. And here's some eye shadow I use as well. 

As far as allergies getting worse or better with pregnancy, I've heard both. As with all allergies, everybody is different. Obviously, I hope mine would get better. I have no personal experience yet, though.

Make sure to browse all of my my nickel postssuch as this recent post called "Items That Contain Nickel". Also, here's what I do when my skin freaks out.

I hope this helps!

Sincerely,

The Allergista