Nickel Allergy: How Serious is It?

Did you know? Studies estimate that there are six-hundred-million people allergic to nickel and many more who don’t know they are. It’s in everything, all around us — cell phones, purses, jewelry, zippers, coins, metal kitchen items, belt buckles, some dental metals, tattoo ink, and surprisingly, it’s in medical needles and some medical and dental implants.

It’s also in food like soy, figs, and buckwheat, with higher concentrations in canned and fermented foods, like sauerkraut, beer, and wine. It’s also higher in food that grows in the ground like peanuts and potatoes. And sadly, it’s high in coffee, tea, and chocolate.

Most stainless steel pans and silverware are 18/8, which means they contain 8% nickel. That nickel can leach into your food, especially when cooking with wine, tomatoes, lemon – anything acidic.

Writers – in one test, 31 laptops from five brands were tested and some do contain nickel. Thirty-nine percent of the laptops tested were nickel spot-test-positive.

The slow consumption of or direct exposure to nickel, day after day, could be causing an immune response that wears out your system, thereby causing fatigue, brain fog, pain, achiness, and sometimes chronic illness.

14k white gold for instance is a combination of 58.5% fine gold, 12% copper, 8% nickel, 6% zinc, and 4.5% silver. 

Woman wearing rings and a bracelet

Want to go nickel-free?

Want to go nickel-free? White gold jewelry can be made with palladium instead of nickel. It’s about the same price and keeps its shine better. (After my husband died, eventually I had my wedding rings remade into an everyday ring with white gold + palladium). Platinum and nickel-free sterling silver are also good choices. You will also find many brands of inexpensive or handmade jewelry that say “nickel-free” on the label.

To start a nickel-free kitchen, you will find a wide variety of nickel-free flatware online. Stainless will have a number stamped on it like 18/8. That means it’s 18% chromium, and 8% nickel. Nickel-free silverware is 18/0. It’s not as durable, but it’s still pretty and a safer choice. It’s inexpensive so you can change it up every couple of years.

I find my ceramic pans at the TJ MAXX group of stores. I haven’t found ceramic baking sheets yet, so I always use parchment to line them. I won’t use Teflon or any pans (ceramic or otherwise) made in China due to possible lead and other additives. My ceramic pans are all made in Italy, Germany, or the Netherlands. You can also use aluminum or cast iron, but remember, cooking with lemon, tomatoes, wine, or anything acidic can leach the metal into the food. With ceramic, you’re protected from that happening.

To find out what you already own that contains nickel, there are testing kits on or that are easy to use. If an item contains nickel, the cotton swab turns pink. It’s as simple as that.

Ceramic Skillet

How do You Know if You’re Allergic?

If you’ve ever had your finger itch from wearing a ring, or red, burning ears from earrings, then it’s probable. If you get welts on your skin from zippers, belt buckles, or necklaces, there’s a good chance.

Tattoos can also be problematic and go unnoticed. Many people with tattoos live with chronic fatigue and other issues and never make the connection (there are other heavy metals in the ink as well).

I had my own unique situation with a dental implant and nickel in my mouth. It was life-altering and created a severe allergy to nickel that I will never overcome.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to nickel can include skin dryness, chapping, eczema, blisters, and inflammation at the site of the exposure to items releasing a sufficient amount of solubilized nickel. –The Nickel Institute

Having a ring make your finger itch or a belt buckle give you a small welt may be a minor inconvenience, but keep in mind, as you age, your immunity naturally goes down and what might not be a big deal today could become a huge problem later.

Additionally, if you suspect you are allergic to nickel, be sure to ask your medical and dental practitioners what’s in any implants or devices. Get the ingredients in writing from the manufacturer – titanium devices CAN contain traces of nickel and from what I’ve been told, more likely than not.

According to the Nickel Institute, “On average 12% to 15% of women and 1% to 2% of men are allergic to nickel. A very small proportion of the nickel-allergic population is hyper-sensitive. Hyper-sensitive people react to lower amounts of nickel released than is typical for the nickel-allergic population as a whole.”

For comprehensive information and greater detail on nickel allergies, what to watch out for, and more, go to the Nickel Institutes website. 

The text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the Healthy Writer Life website are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your distinct healthcare needs and/or medical condition. Never ignore professional medical advice because of something you have read on the Healthy Writer Life website. Regular exercise and dietary needs vary for each individual; you are responsible for your own health and safety at all times.

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