As more and more people rely on their mobile phones, allergists are seeing a rise in face rashes triggered by the nickel in the phone's buttons. New research was presented on November 15 at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Phoenix, Arizona.

Allergic reactions to nickel are common, affecting up to 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men, and can be triggered by nickel in earrings, body piercings, eyeglass frames, and watchbands. "Allergists are seeing increasing numbers of nickel allergy among patients," said Dr. Luz Fonacier, an ACAAI fellow from New York, in a statement.

The new unpublished research follows prior UK findings in 2008 that itchy, cheek-reddening eruptions were linked to nickel allergies in sensitive-skinned people.

"Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines, and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction," he said. Other symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, blistering, skin lesions, and sometimes oozing and scarring.

Solution to avoiding problems? Use a plastic cover on your mobile or a wireless ear piece. Alternatively, rely on speaker phone or switch to a phone that does not contain metal on the surfaces that contact the skin. Wired, a science and technology consumer magazine, recommends glass-fronted touch screen phones, such as the iPhone.  

To learn more about allergies to nickel: