Allergy to nickel what to avoid

The symptoms of metal hypersensitivity are caused when the body’s immune system starts to view metal ions as foreign threats. The cells that make up the immune system normally kill foreign bacteria and viruses by causing inflammation. If they start attacking metal ions that you touch, eat, inhale, or own implanted in you, they can produce a variety of symptoms (see the symptoms and complications section, below).

Potential metal allergens (triggers of allergic reactions) are extremely common in everyday life. Typical sources such as watches, coins, and jewellery come readily to mind.

However, there are also other less obvious sources of metal in our daily lives. For example, cosmetic products and contact lens solutions may also contain metals that can trigger a reaction at the area of contact.

Nickel is one of the most frequent allergens, causing significant local contact dermatitis (skin reddening and itching). Cobalt, copper, and chromium are also common culprits. These metals can be found in consumer items such as jewellery, cell phones, and clothing items.

Aside from everyday items, medical devices also contain possible allergens such as chromium and titanium.

Allergy to nickel what to avoid

Older dental implants and fillings are often made of metals. A few intra-uterine devices (IUDs) for birth control are made of copper and can also cause hypersensitivities. Implantable devices such as artificial knees, artificial hips, pacemakers, stents, and fracture plates, rods, or pins may contain metals that can cause metal hypersensitivity reactions. These reactions are often more severe in nature when the allergens own been implanted within the body for an extended period of time.

In addition, people who already own an autoimmune disorder (a disorder where the immune system is overactive) can own a higher risk of a metal hypersensitivity, as their immune system is in a constant state of activity.

Getting assist for allergies

See a GP if you ponder you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can also be caused by other conditions.

A GP can assist determine whether it’s likely you own an allergy.

If they ponder you might own a mild allergy, they can offer advice and treatment to assist manage the condition.

If your allergy is particularly severe or it’s not clear what you’re allergic to, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and advice about treatment.

Find out more about allergy testing

Is it an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance?


The exaggeration of the normal effects of a substance. For example, the caffeine in a cup of coffee may cause extreme symptoms, such as palpitations and trembling.


A reaction produced by the body’s immune system when exposed to a normally harmless substance.


Where a substance causes unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhoea, but does not involve the immune system.

People with an intolerance to certain foods can typically eat a little quantity without having any problems.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021

Nickel triggers more hypersensitive reactions than any other metal – up to 15% of the population, mostly women, suffers from some form of nickel allergy. Nickel is exceptionally common and is present in cigarettes, jewellery, buttons and coins (including the Euro).

It may be found in dental restorations, prostheses (hip, knee, cochlear and cardiac implants), colour pigments, cosmetics, stainless steel cutlery, pots and pans. Even hard cleaning of kitchenware has been shown to release nickel in washing-up water. Nickel can pollute drinking water near factories which use it.

Allergy to nickel what to avoid

Nutritionists own developed low nickel diets which cut out certain nickel-rich foods (e.g. cocoa, chocolate, broccoli, nuts) Sources of Dietary Nickel,

Please note that the information under is taken from various sources and may not reflect the situation in your country. For example, a clinic in the USA states that potatoes are high in nickel, while analysis by the Swedish Food istration found only a low nickel content in potatoes.

The discrepancy is most likely due to the mineral and metal content of the soil in which the vegetables are grown.

Further information:

The US Food and Drug istration has issued a warning that patients who are having stents fitted should discuss metal allergy with their surgeon prior to having a stent net fitted. While nickel allergy may present as a rash or localised contact dermatitis, it may also own systemic effects including chronic fatigue and muscle pain and widespread skin conditions.

The major dietary source of nickel is plant foods.

Nickel-rich food items include nuts, beans, peas, grains and chocolate. Animal foods are low in nickel. Entire daily dietary intakes of nickel vary depending on the quantity of plant and animal foods consumed. Diets high in plant foods, such as the ones listed above, supply about 900 micrograms daily of nickel. Nickel intake in the United States ranges from 69 to 162 micrograms daily. A daily dietary requirement of 25 to 35 micrograms has been suggested. END
Nickel may be found in prepared foods (tinned foods) at markedly higher concentrations than the safe threshold laid below for hypersensitive patients.

Some foodstuffs cooked in stainless-steel utensils react with the metal and thus contain much more nickel than when enamel or aluminium saucepans are used.

Allergy to nickel what to avoid

Among the natural organic acids, which may be responsible for dissolving stainless-steel, oxalic acid is the most athletic at equivalent concentrations.
Contact Dermatitis. 1979 Jan;5(1):43-5. Nickel in food: the role of stainless-steel utensils., Brun R.

The normal daily intake of nickel by American adults is about 0.3 to 0.6mg. About 1 to 10% of nickel in food is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and the remainder is excreted.

Allergy to nickel what to avoid

The nickel content of food is partially sure by the components of the soil in which the food was grown, pesticides used on it and the equipment used in the handling of the food. Nickel in food may vary considerably from region to region.

Allergy to nickel what to avoid

Certain foods are routinely high in nickel content. Legumes, nuts, grains, chocolate and certain canned fish are among the foods high in nickel. In summary, ingested nickel from food, beverages or cooking utensils can cause a flare of dermatitis is some individuals. Accordingly, motivated persons may see improvement if they can reduce their ingestion of nickel through dietary change.

Nickel content in food
High content
(more than 0.5 mg/kg)
Medium content
(0.1-0.5 mg/kg)
Low content
(less than 0.1 mg/kg)
Mussels Various mushrooms Meat
Dark chocolate Oysters Ham
Cocoa powder Milk chocolate Sausage
Liquorice Eggs Poultry
Hazel nuts Raspberries Liver
Almonds Blackcurrants Kidney
Peanuts Cloudberries Cucumber
Pistachio nuts nuts Kale Cheese
Walnuts Parsley Milk
Alfalfa seeds Garlic Yoghurt
Brown beans Parsnip Onion
Soy beans Horseradish Cabbage
Pulses (green) Corn flour Beetroot
Mung beans Rye Spinach
Chickpeas Barley Corn
Yellow peas Rice Flour
Linseed Salad
Poppy seed Carrots
Oatmeal Potatoes
Wheat bran Fish
Oat bran Squash
Millet Apple
Soy flour Pear
Buckwheat Strawberries
As analysed by the Swedish Food istration

The Facts

Metal hypersensitivity is a disorder of the immune system. It is a common condition that affects 10% to 15% of the population.

It can produce a variety of symptoms, including rashes, swelling, or pain due to contact with certain metals (see the symptoms and complications section, below).

In addition to the local skin reactions, metal hypersensitivity can also manifest itself as more chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. There are numerous local and systemic symptoms that, when considered together, can be caused by metal hypersensitivities.

It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel and that 1% to 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. These types of reactions can be localized reactions that are limited to one area, but they can also be more generalized and affect other more distant parts of the body.

What causes allergies?

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific substance as though it’s harmful.

It’s not clear why this happens, but most people affected own a family history of allergies or own closely related conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

The number of people with allergies is increasing every year.

The reasons for this are not understood, but 1 of the main theories is it’s the result of living in a cleaner, germ-free environment, which reduces the number of germs our immune system has to deal with.

It’s thought this may cause it to overreact when it comes into contact with harmless substances.

Common allergies

Substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens.

The more common allergens include:

  1. medicines – including ibuprofen, aspirin and certain antibiotics
  2. latex – used to make some gloves and condoms
  3. grass and tree pollen – an allergy to these is known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  4. insect bites and stings
  5. food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cows’ milk
  6. dust mites
  7. animal dander, tiny flakes of skin or hair
  8. mould – these can release little particles into the air that you can breathe in
  9. household chemicals – including those in detergents and hair dyes

Most of these allergens are generally harmless to people who are not allergic to them.

How to manage an allergy

In many cases, the most effective way of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen that causes the reaction whenever possible.

For example, if you own a food allergy, you should check a food’s ingredients list for allergens before eating it.

There are also several medicines available to help control symptoms of allergic reactions, including:

  1. lotions and creams, such as moisturising creams (emollients) – these can reduce skin redness and itchiness
  2. decongestants – tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids that can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose
  3. antihistamines – these can be taken when you notice the symptoms of a reaction, or before being exposed to an allergen, to stop a reaction occurring
  4. steroid medicines – sprays, drops, creams, inhalers and tablets that can assist reduce redness and swelling caused by an allergic reaction

For some people with extremely severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy may be recommended.

This involves being exposed to the allergen in a controlled way over a number of years so your body gets used to it and does not react to it so severely.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

Allergic reactions generally happen quickly within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.

They can cause:

  1. wheezing and coughing
  2. a red, itchy rash
  3. sneezing
  4. red, itchy, watery eyes
  5. a runny or blocked nose
  6. worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms

Most allergic reactions are mild, but occasionally a severe reaction called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can happen.

This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.


Allergy to nickel what to avoid