(NaturalNews) Portable electronic devices may be to blame for rising rates of nickel allergies, suggests a case study by researchers from the University of California-San Diego and published in the journal Pediatrics.
The case concerned an 11-year-old boy whose persistent, untreatable rash was eventually traced to his iPad.
"A lot of high-tech gadgets -- whether it's phones or tablets or computers -- are made of aluminum," commented CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman. "They're made of stainless steel, but they can have alloys that have nickel in them."
Six months of suffering
The boy had been suffering from a body rash that did not respond to any standard treatments for six months before doctors thought to test him for a nickel allergy, and the results came back positive.
The doctors conducted further interviews with the family to try and determine the source of nickel exposure in the boy's environment, and eventually learned that over the preceding six months he had begun using the family's iPad much more frequently. The doctors tested the device (a first-generation iPad purchased in 2010) and discovered that its outside coating contained nickel with dimethylglyoxime.
Once the family put a cover on the iPad and the boy began avoiding other nickel-containing products and reducing his dietary nickel intake, the symptoms abated.
Although nickel allergies have previously been linked to exposure to other types of electronic devices, from laptops to cell phones, the Pediatrics study describes the first known case of a childhood and nickel allergy being connected with an iPad. It is still unknown whether all iPads or Apple mobile devices are made with nickel.
Nickel allergies on the rise
The authors of the Pediatrics paper said that doctors should keep electronic devices in mind as a potential cause of skin reactions.
"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," they wrote.
In the past 10 years, the proportion of children undergoing allergy testing who turn out to have nickel allergies has increased from 17 percent to 25 percent. While nickel allergies are not typically dangerous, they can range from mildly uncomfortable to intensely painful. If a child becomes infected, they may even require steroid antibiotic treatment. In the Pediatrics case study, the boy in question actually had to miss school because his skin allergies were so severe.
"Usually redness, itchiness, even blisters can occur; swelling -- it can be very uncomfortable," New York allergist Clifford Bassett said. "And people may not realize they're allergic to something they use all the time."
Doctors warn that children may be more susceptible to nickel allergies than adults, in part because parents do not recognize the source of the problem.
That's why Ana Aguilar of the Bronx, interviewed by a local news station covering the story, said that she limits her daughter's access to electronic devices and makes sure that they are all covered with 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 are worried that you are suffering from a nickel allergy, you can get tested by a doctor. If you already know that you have an allergy, you can buy a kit online for about $20 that will let you test your electronic devices for nickel. It only takes about a minute to get the results.
"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."