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Are You Allergic to Your Cell Phone?

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Just when you increased your cellular phone usage limits, do you know that more exposure to your mobile phone handset can be associated with skin allergies to the phone itself? 

Well yes, if you have been “sensitized” to the metal nickel — a study found about 40 to 50 percent of all manufacturers use this metal in parts of the cell phone — then repeated and prolonged exposure to your phone can be associated with a facial, often itchy rash.

During a presentation on skin allergies, at a recent meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Dr. Luz Fonacier, an allergist and dermatologist who discussed this condition said, “Increased use of cell phones has led to prolonged exposure to nickel in phones.”
It has been reported that nickel allergy can affect almost one in five women — more likely due to exposure in jewelry — and about three percent of men. Other common sources of nickel include products such as watches, coins, jewelry and buckles.

In fact, during 2008 the British Association of Dermatologists issued an alert to advise more about nickel allergy, as a surge in facial rashes were observed in the UK among other countries that were felt to be associated with cell phone usage.

Fonacier suggested the following options if you believe you suffer with skin rashes as a result of exposure to nickel, if present, in your cell phone:

1. Go for a hands free device to reduce face to phone contact

2. Try using a phone “cover”

3. Buy a “nickel spot-test” kit to determine if a phone is laden with nickel

4. Utilize the speaker phone option, whenever possible

The best way to protect you if you have a suspicion you may have a skin allergy to nickel? See an experienced allergist. Click here to find one near you at the ACAAI’s allergist finder.

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is currently the vice chair for the Public Education Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. For more information, visit his Web site at www.nyc-allergist.com.

Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomat of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.  Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of Medicine and Otolaryngology at SUNY LICH. Follow him on Twitter.