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Have allergies? Your cell phone could be the culprit

by , 19 November 2013

Do you suffer from itchy, red bumps and blisters along your jaws, cheeks and ears? If so, you might be allergic to nickel and your cellphone has everything to do with it.

Pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics is warning against nickel allergies.

In a report by All4Women, Mariska Fouche, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says the company’s allergy helpline has fielded dozens of calls in recent months from members of the public enquiring about whether their cell phones are to blame for their allergies.

According to Fouche, the prolonged exposure to nickel – a metal often used in cell phone buttons, headsets and LCD screen frames – is the likely cause of the allergy.

What is a cell phone allergy?

While it’s often referred to as a cell phone allergy, it’s actually a nickel allergy. Nickel is one of the most common contact allergens.

It’s estimated that South Africa has over 40 million handsets in circulation, majority of which are feature phones.

With so many people using cell phones and the amount of time spent on social networks, it’s no wonder nickel allergies are on the rise.

The report says that while there aren’t any statistics available for South Africa, experts suggest that figures are comparable with that of the UK, where one in ten people suffer from a nickel allergy.

Worldwide there has been an increase in the number of nickel allergies reported, particularly among teenagers.

Are you at risk of nickel allergies?

According to the report, the risk is increased by frequent and prolonged contact with nickel-containing items such as cell phones and jewellery for example.

Be warned: Since contact with other objects containing nickel, such as keys and coins are brief, the allergy may not become immediately apparent.

Symptoms of nickel allergy range from redness, itching, swelling, blistering and skin lesions to eczema and sometimes oozing or scarring may also occur.

Women are more likely than men to develop the allergy

In the report, Fouche notes that women are more likely than men to develop the allergy, because they were possibly sensitised earlier in life when they had their ears pierced, which can introduce nickel into the bloodstream.

“When the ear is pierced, an earring stud is left in the ear to keep the hole open until the skin around it heals. Since the piercing is an open wound, the nickel salts are able to enter the bloodstream and break down the body’s natural resistance.”

“The reason why so many people are susceptible to nickel allergies is because the metal dissolves in moisture, forming salts. For example, when someone sweats while speaking on their nickel-containing-cell phone, salts form and the skin becomes inflamed. Nickel is a strong irritant and repeated contact with it can weaken the body’s resistance,” she says.

Is there anything you can do about a nickel allergy?


If you use your cell phone frequently and suffer from a from a nickel allergy do the following:
  • Use a wireless ear piece
  • Set your phone to speakerphone
  • Put a phone cover and clear film screen on the device
  • Switch to a phone that doesn’t contain metal on surfaces that make contact with your skin, such as an iPhone or Android phones

And remember, if you have itchy, red bumps and blisters along your jaws, cheeks and ears, you might be suffering from a nickel allergy. It might be a good idea to see your doctor so he can help you treat it.

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