Allergy to nickel: what it is, how to treat it and what to eat

Allergy to nickel: what it is, how to treat it and what to eat

What is nickel allergy, how can it be treated and what to eat to keep it under control. With the opinion of the expert

There are many who claim to suffer from nickel intolerance. In reality, it is a real allergy, certainly widespread precisely because this metal is present in many objects of daily use, in personal and home hygiene products, and also in numerous foods. Its presence is often unsuspected.

We then asked Dr. Franco Borghesan, an allergist, how a nickel allergy manifests itself, where this metal is found and how to intervene.


  • Allergy or intolerance?
  • Where is nickel found
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Care and treatment
  • What to eat and what foods to avoid

Allergy or intolerance?

"First of all, we cannot speak of intolerance to nickel but of a real allergy to this metal" explains Dr. Borghesan.

The difference lies precisely in the type of response of the organism, when it comes into contact with an object, a product or a food containing nickel. "We talk about allergy precisely because the reaction underlies a demonstrable immunological mechanism" explains the expert.

Where is nickel found

«Nickel is a ubiquitous metal in nature. It is found, in fact, in many metal objects of daily use: hooks, buckles, buttons, watches, frames, costume jewelery, scissors, coins but also cosmetics and detergents "explains the expert.

It is therefore necessary to pay close attention to the composition of the objects we use every day as well as to the products for cleaning the house and for personal hygiene. The latter must be chosen and purchased bearing in mind the appropriate certifications (nickel-free and nickel tested).

In addition, it should be considered that in 2020 the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) established a defined acceptable or tolerable daily dose of nickel equal to 13 micrograms per kg of body weight per day.


Let's now analyze the signs or symptoms that may suggest the presence of a nickel allergy.

«The most common symptom is contact dermatitis which manifests itself with erythema, microvesiculation and itching in the areas of the skin in contact with the metal» explains Dr. Borghesan.


"The diagnosis is clinical and is then confirmed by the application of PATCH test, or skin tests with delayed reading at 48 and 96 hours" continues the expert. Specifically, patches are applied on which substances suspected of being responsible for contact dermatitis are present. After a certain period of time, the patches are then removed to check for any redness, itching or blisters on the skin that was in contact with the patches.

It is therefore very important to go to the treating doctor when symptoms appear. In this way it will be possible to be referred to the specialist and thus perform the indicated diagnostic tests.

Care and treatment

"Nickel allergy can be treated by avoiding contact with products containing nickel and using nickel free products" explains Dr. Borghesan.

Nickel allergy can therefore be "cured" by taking the right precautions. In this sense, brands and various manufacturing companies are making great strides. In fact, specific voluntary certifications exist precisely to protect those allergic to this metal. It is therefore possible to choose only nickel free products in complete safety.

As regards the food sector, for example, there are certifications that guarantee the absence of nickel above the threshold of 0.01 mg / kg. It must be considered that today there are more and more "nickel tested" products on the market. There is a difference between nickel-free and nickel-tested: in the first case, the product is nickel-free in laboratory tests; in the second, on the other hand, a test is performed on the product that measures the levels of nickel, certifying that the content is less than a certain amount.

What to eat and what foods to avoid

Food is also involved in nickel allergy. In fact, the offending metal is present in numerous varieties of foods. Even in the most unsuspected ones, precisely because it is a very widespread metal.

"There is (the case is much rarer) a systemic nickel syndrome that can manifest itself both with the re-ignition of the dermatitis in the previously affected areas even in the absence of contact with metals, and with intestinal symptoms such as heartburn (ed. Burning sensation) and sometimes diarrhea »explains Dr. Borghesan.

We asked the expert which foods could represent a risk in this sense.

«Foods that contain nickel are mainly tomatoes and hazelnuts, but this metal can be present in many other plant foods such as mushrooms, asparagus, peas, beans, onions, pears and cabbage. But not only that, we can also find nickel on wholemeal flour, cocoa and oysters, herring or other foods stored in metal boxes "concludes the expert.

There are, then, some precautions that it is good to follow to avoid coming into contact with nickel. For example, beware of dietary supplements. Many of these, in fact, contain different percentages of nickel. Another precaution concerns the methods of cooking food: no to pans, pots, utensils and cutlery that contain nickel and it is always better to avoid cooking in foil. Finally, beware of cigarettes!

Tag: Allergies

Category: Health
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