Nickel Allergies on Rise as Devices Meet Skin

As wearable devices become more popular, some doctors and consumers have expressed concerns about a lack of regulatory oversight to monitor the frequency of skin allergies and other reactions to certain metals or plastics used in the products.

Nickel Allergies on Rise as Devices Meet Skin

Nickel, one of the most common allergens in the United States, can be found in things like hand-held devices and jewelry. But unlike Europe, the United States has no restrictions on its widespread use in consumer products. That worries some doctors who say that the growing use of mobile and hand-held devices combined with a lack of regulatory oversight could lead to a spike in allergic reactions.

“I am absolutely concerned about it,” said Stephen P. Stone, the director of clinical research in dermatology at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and the former president of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 to 20 percent of the population is allergic to nickel. The reactions can be unpleasant, but not fatal. Typically they include blistering, redness and dry skin.

In February, Fitbit, the maker of a popular brand of devices that measure physical activity, had to recall more than a million of its wristbands after receiving complaints about adverse skin reactions. In a statement on its website, the company said that users were most likely suffering from allergic contact dermatitis, a red and itchy rash, caused by either the adhesive or the nickel content.

That frustrated some users, especially those who had not previously suffered from a nickel allergy. Fitbit is facing legal action from consumers who want more information about the Fitbit Force, the line of products the company recalled.

“One of the things that’s really frustrating is that Fitbit will not say what caused the reaction,” said Alexandra Schweitzer, a health insurance executive from Massachusetts who said she developed what looked like an infected bug bite from her Force last year. Several years ago, dermatologists began seeing allergic reactions to cellphones, but some say the scope of the problem has since expanded.

In 2011, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recalled about 1,200 children’s watches because of nickel in the watch’s back, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the independent government agency in charge of recalls. A recent article in The Journal of Pediatrics pointed to a rise in nickel allergies among children and cited an 11-year-old boy who most likely had an allergic reaction to his iPad.

“With the increasing prevalence of nickel allergy in the pediatric population, it is important for clinicians to continue to consider metallic-appearing electronics and personal effects as potential sources of nickel exposure,” the article stated.

Nickel exposure from children’s toys in the United States poses a unique problem, because researchers say that frequent exposure to nickel can create sensitivity.

“I think nickel is still a really big issue in the United States,” said Bruce A. Brod, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school. “Now we’re seeing some cases from iPads and laptop computers and some of the video games where there are metal pods.”

In an email, Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Apple, said that reactions described in the Pediatrics article were “extremely rare,” and that the company voluntarily adhered to international nickel guidelines.

“Apple products are made from the highest-quality materials and meet the same strict standards set for jewelry by both the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission and their counterparts in Europe. We rigorously test our products to make sure they are safe for all our customers,” he said.

When a recall is fast-tracked, as with the Force, the Consumer Product Safety Commission rarely performs its own testing. That leaves consumers at the mercy of the company to disclose the source of a problem.

“One of the scary things about a situation like this is that it induces a near state of panic when consumers have an adverse reaction and fear the worse,” said Joseph J. Siprut, a lawyer who filed a class-action complaint against Fitbit in March. The company said it did not believe that the lawsuit had merit.

The product safety agency has already received similar complaints for another Fitbit wristband, the Fitbit Flex, according to the safety agency’s online database.

“The company is constantly evaluating its products and working to improve its next-generation products,” James Park, the chief executive of Fitbit said in a statement. “As with any jewelry or wearable device, prolonged contact may contribute to skin irritation or allergies in a few users. Guidelines for product safety and hygiene are available on the website and we encourage users to follow these for maximum enjoyment of their Fitbit products.”

A spokesman for the consumer agency, Scott Wolfson, said it had the “power to take action” against “harmful metals or chemicals upon receiving information that there is a risk of exposure to consumers.”

Not all products that contain nickel pose a threat. How much nickel is in a product affects how much nickel seeps out of it, and Europe has guidelines that companies must follow. “The European directive has limited the use of nickel, but in the United States we haven’t, and it results in suffering and health care expenditure,” Dr. Brod said.

Source: New York Times

Daily shower bad for your skin? Try the ‘soak and smear’

The East and the Midwest have been suffering a frigid, seemingly endless winter. The West, mainly California, has been mired in drought. Neither is good for skin.

The cold can keep people indoors in dry heating, while drought is, well, dry.

Combine this weather with the American love of frequent showers and baths and you’ve got a recipe for itchy, parched skin, or aggravated conditionslike dermatitis and eczema. Should we stop showering so much, as suggested by a recent Discovery News story, and embrace our stink?

Not necessarily, say dermatologists. It’s not so much how often you bathe, but how you bathe that matters.

Forget about that all over-sudsing, suggests Dr. Casey Carlos, assistant professor of medicine in the division of dermatology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“It’s the hardest thing to get people to use soap only where they need it,” Carlos told Because soap is designed to remove oils from the skin, it’s drying. So Carlos suggests using it in armpits, the groin area, feet — the potentially smelly places —and skipping chest, back, legs, arms.

“People don’t realize that the skin does a pretty good job of cleaning itself,” Carlos said.

Use lukewarm, not hot, water, and keep showers short. (Water authorities in drought areas will thank you.) “Then, as soon as you get out of the shower, moisturize,” Carlos said.

Some research has shown using an emollient body wash can clean and moisturize as well as using an after-shower product. One risk, however, is that in-shower moisturizing can leave the shower or tub as slick as a used pasta plate.

“I used one, and the next time I stepped into the shower, I almost slipped,” Carlos said.

Baths can actually be therapeutic for dry skin sufferers because a soak in lukewarm water helps the skin absorb the moisture. Dermatologists use the phrase “soak and smear.” Soak for 10 or 15 minutes, then smear on moisturizer. That technique can be superior to moisturizing after a shower.

The American Academy of Dermatology says that small children and the elderly need to shower less often (unless, of course, your child has been building the Panama Canal in the backyard, or if they’ve been swimming in a lake, pool, or ocean.) The skin of small children is more delicate and elderly skin is naturally drier.

Many people, Carlos said, think that tight, after-shower feeling is a sign of cleanliness. It’s not. It means your skin is too dry

Source; Today health


Man Has Skin Reaction to Tattoo — 20 Years Later

There have been many cases of people having allergic reactions just after getting a tattoo. But for one man in England, the reaction was delayed, coming 20 years after he got his tattoo, according to a new report of his case.

The 54-year-old man had recently completed chemotherapy for the blood cancer lymphoma, and had just undergone a bone-marrow transplant using his own cells. Six days later, when his immune system was still suppressed because of the procedure, he developed a fever.

Looking for the cause of the fever, doctors found newly formed skin lesions on the red-ink parts of his old tattoo, resembling the allergic reaction that some people experience when they get a new tattoo.

“While acute red-ink tattoo reactions are well documented, a case of a tattoo reaction with a delay of more than two decades has not been previously described,” said Dr. George Chapman, who treated the man.

Although most people who get such reactions to tattoo ink are allergic to one of the ingredients in the ink, this was likely not the case for this patient, said Chapman, of Churchill Hospital in England.

“Given this was a bone-marrow transplant of the patient’s own bone marrow, his immune system should be near identical (in terms of what his immune system reacts to, and what it has seen before) both before and after the transplant,” Chapman told Live Science in an email.

“I believe that immune-system suppression was the trigger for the reaction, Chapman said.

Most likely, the tattooing done decades ago had introduced bacteria into the man’s body, and those bacteria were held at bay by a healthy immune system, Chapman explained. But once the immune system was compromised by chemotherapy, those bacteria found an opportunity to cause problems.

In fact, three days later, when the patient’s immune system returned to normal, the lesions healed, leaving only peeling skin behind [Image of the tattoo reaction]

The patient declined a biopsy, so it remains unknown which bacteria may have caused the reaction.

However, it is also possible that the reaction was not due to an infection, Chapman said. Rather, an ingredient in the ink might have interacted with one of the chemotherapy drugs to form a new compound. This new molecule could have then appeared new to the immune system, and caused a reaction, Chapman said.

The report was published Jan. 10 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

Source: Live science