Allergic Reaction to Metal
July 7, 2004 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Allergic Reaction to Metal Filter

I can't wear any kind of cheap metal. Week before I wore a belt with a cheap ass buckle. Now I have an ungodly itchy rash on the left side of my body from my waist to my knee. Anyone have any suggestions before I scratch myself to death?

And a doctor isn't really an option as there is no insurance in the ol' damnitkage household.
posted by damnitkage to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not a doctor, but it sounds like you might have nickel dermatitis (see ugly pix & lots of info here). I had this on & off when I was younger and found that coating jeans buttons & such with a few coats of clear nail polish really helped, as well as avoiding metal jewelry that was not pure gold. Eventually it went away.
posted by judith at 8:02 AM on July 7, 2004

An over the counter steroid cream should help, and an antihistamne like benedryl (strong but sedating) or claritin (not as strong but non-sedating) may give additional relief. A non-pharmacological anti-pruritic (anti-itch) treatment is to cover the area with the hottest compress you can tolerate for as long as possible; this should give good relief but it is only temporary. Also, you might want to consider that there is something else causing your rash, as it does not sound like it is located where the belt buckle would rub against your skin.
posted by TedW at 8:03 AM on July 7, 2004

Topical antihistamines should help. I think Benadryl has a lotion now. Might want to combine it with a pill, for extra effect.
posted by aramaic at 8:04 AM on July 7, 2004

Topical benadryl, oral Claritin. Occasional salt baths (epsom salts).

Also a caution: the oils in many insect repellents will often dissolve many plastics-based things, including inks and dyes, causing them to come into more intimate contact with skin. I mention this because I have very sensitive skin, and have had problems with this.
posted by yesster at 8:18 AM on July 7, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks to all! I'll try each and everyone before I become a heroin junkie.
posted by damnitkage at 8:20 AM on July 7, 2004

Also, an oatmeal bath, either with collodial oats from the pharmacy, or just run some regular outmeal through the processor for a few seconds, will do wonders for a rash and it helps it not itch as much.
posted by dejah420 at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2004

As one who has an unhappy allergy to metals, including gold, I understand how you're itching right now. Oatmeal baths are a life saver for me. Also, topical and oral antihistimines are sometimes necessary. The advice from others is spot on. However, I never had good luck with coating things in clear nail polish. Aside from temporary relief, you need patience as your skin heals from this outbreak. The healing itself can also be itchy.

To avoid the problem in the future, identify which items or metals set your allergy off and avoid them. My wearable jewerly collection is greatly reduced these days. I don't count coins if I can avoid it. I use plastic or stainless steel pens and eating utensils whenever possible. I also remind my doctors anytime they bring a metal instrument near me if I don't know it's composition. Additionally, a little attention to how your clothes touch you can avoid outbreaks resulting from metal incorporated into your clothes. Thus, the belt you mention can still be worn if you have clothing between it and you.
posted by onhazier at 1:12 PM on July 7, 2004

I have a nickel allergy, too. It's a pain, especially if it's accompanied by a real fondness for antique costume jewlery. *sigh*

Anyway, the only thing you can really do is use some sort of anti-itch cream on the existing rash, and avoid cheap metal in the future.

On the bright side, my allergy to nickel has gotten much less severe over the years. When I was a kid through my early 20s, I couldn't even look at anything with a hint of nickel in it without getting a rash. Now I can make an informed decision to wear a particularly lovely piece of cheap-ass jewelry, as long as I'm willing to face the uncomfortable consequences for a couple of days afterward. So it's not like you're doomed to very expensive earrings for life. (Unless you've got it as bad as onhazier--my sympathies!)
posted by jennyb at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2004

Oh... If you do have a nickel allergy, stainless steel is usually okay for earring posts, as is sterling silver, which is a nice, affordable jewelry alternative to 24k gold.

Of course, if you like 24k gold jewelry, you now have an excellent excuse to get some.
posted by jennyb at 1:48 PM on July 7, 2004

What's the biology explanation for metal allergies? I assume from the responses it's a histamine response but what to do the histamines attempt to bond to? I can see like a food allergy where when the body breaks down the organic chains and such that the histamines bind to that organic molecule. I can't fathom a piece of metal on the molecular scale "flaking" and the body responding to it.

From my fuzzy biology days I remember that the lymphocytes detect proteins (it was a test question, I'm positive it's a protein strand) and then they determine if it's good or Republican. If it's the latter they send those histamines and other things at it, the histamines I believe are the ones that cause the discomfort. Last I checked nickel was not a protein but a metal on the periodic table.

Bonus question: How do the lymphocytes (if that's what does the detecting) tell apart the good and the bad? Do they have a list of structures that would be found in "good proteins" and check against that or do they have a list of what would be found in a bad protein and check against that? I have so many questions that google is unable to solve.

And dammit kage why did you have to get my mind going like this.
posted by geoff. at 5:15 PM on July 7, 2004

Also, you could have a reaction to Zinc (which makes Gold unwearable because gold jewelery is full of it). I have a mild case of this, which is the suxxor. I found aloe lotion to do a good job at making me itch less.
posted by Stynxno at 5:22 PM on July 7, 2004

geoff., I've always wondered the same thing about metal allergies.

Re your second paragraph, my understanding is that your body has a list of bad proteins, in the form of antibodies — these float around, each one waiting to encounter its particular protein pet peeve, and bind to it in such a way that it summons the rest of the immune system. But it's probably a lot more complicated than that. Wikipedia has an extensive entry on immune stuff.
posted by hattifattener at 10:02 PM on July 7, 2004

Ah, I have the exact same problem as damnitkage, yet it never occurred to me to ask you guys about it. My rash is only around the area where my belt-buckle rests and as long as I keep something tucked between my buckle and skin, it doesn't itch. I'm hoping my never-ending search for a belt with a non-metal buckle will end my problems.
posted by tracicle at 12:36 AM on July 8, 2004

My nickel allergy is obviously less severe than yours, but I always found that diaper rash cream was an effective anti-itch medication, as well.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:40 AM on July 8, 2004

« Older Leaky Washer   |   Unusual Housing in Toronto Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.