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Medical Journal: Electronic Devices Can Cause Nickel Allergies To Flare Up

Some Phones, Tablets, Computers Can Cause Redness, Itchiness, Blisters, Swelling

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We use our electronic devices for all sorts of things – from talking and looking up information to playing games.

But as CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported Monday, the frequent use of such gadgets is actually making some people sick.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops are the devices that keep us connected. But as an article in the most recent issue of the journal Pediatrics pointed out, one 11-year-old boy’s persistent rash turned out to be due to the frequent use of his iPad.

It turned out the child was allergic to the nickel on the exterior of the device.

“A lot of high-tech gadgets — whether it’s phones or tablets or computers — are made of aluminum,” explained CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman. “They’re made of stainless steel, but they can have alloys that have nickel in them.”

Meanwhile, allergist Dr. Clifford Bassett of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York said he is seeing more patients with skin rashes as a result of gadgets made with nickel.

“Usually redness, itchiness, even blisters can occur; swelling — it can be very uncomfortable,” Bassett said. “And people may not realize they’re allergic to something they use all the time.”

Children are particularly susceptible because nickel allergies are rare and parents often do not know their child is allergic.

Ana Aguilar of the Bronx said that is why she limits how long her daughter can use her electronic devices, and she makes sure they have protective cases.

“I prefer something that’s silicone, you know, as opposed to anything that’s metal and touches your hands and goes to the child’s mouth,” Aguilar said.

If you think you are having an allergic reaction to one of your devices, there are kits you can buy to test for the presence of nickel.

“You place a couple drops of this solution on a cotton swab. You rub the metal,” Bassett said. “If it changes color, it indicates there is nickel in that metal.”

“I think it’s a good idea just for people who know that they’re allergic, I guess, to be safe rather than sorry,” said Andrea Iammaetto, of New Hyde Park, Long Island.

Nickel test kits are available online for about $20, and take less than a minute to yield a result. If your device does contain nickel and you are having a reaction to it, the right case can usually stop it – but you are urged to get checked out by a doctor.

Nickel allergies are not life-threatening, but the rashes the cause can be very uncomfortable.

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