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Sting, Skin

A Rash of Cell Phone Allergies

Coverage from the ACAAI conference in Phoenix, November, 2010.

Prolonged cell phone use is leading to nickel sensitivity and reactions on an increasing number of faces, according to a key presenter at the ACAAI conference in Phoenix in November.

“Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction,” Dr. Luz Fonacier, head of the allergy section of Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., told the gathering of about 1,600 allergists.

Nickel contact dermatitis now affects up to 17 per cent of women and 3 per cent of men. Common culprits causing reactions range from nickel-containing coins to eyeglasses, brassiere and jeans fasteners, to watches and jewellery. And now, given the widespread, daily use of portable phones, the cell has been added as major nickel trigger. Dr. Fonacier cited statistics that 6.1 billion minutes per day are racked up on Americans’ cell phones.

“Some researchers suggest that there should be more nickel regulation in the U.S. like there is in some European countries,” noted Dr. Fonacier. (The same issue applies in Canada.)

She has seen patients whose cell phone reactions range from redness, itching and swelling to blistering and skin lesions that sometimes ooze and leave scarring. Those who have eczema are often susceptible to such nickel rashes.

The allergist recommends avoiding phone-to-skin contact. Potential solutions are finding a phone without metal surfaces, using an earpiece cellphone (with plastic covering) or at least getting a plastic cover for an existing cell phone. If you have a rash that may be caused by your cellphone, it’s best to get this looked at by an allergist or dermatologist for diagnosis.

Next: Reactions to hair dyes and temporary tattoos. Plus an outgoing president’s controversial stand against peanut “bans”.

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