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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

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Cell Phone Making You Itch?

Nickel Allergy May Prompt Skin Rash in Some Cell Phone Users
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 17, 2008 -- Some cell phone users may get a skin rash in reaction to the nickel in their cell phones, a condition that the British Association of Dermatologists has dubbed "mobile phone dermatitis."

The British Association of Dermatologists issued a news release yesterday to inform doctors to be aware of the allergic reaction.

Nickel allergy is common, and people who are allergic to nickel may get a rash on their cheek or ear if they spend a lot of time talking on a cell phone containing nickel. They might also get a rash on the fingers if they send lots of text messages, according to the association.

Not all cell phones contain nickel. Earlier this year, researchers at Brown University tested 22 wireless communication devices and found that 10 of them contained nickel.

The researchers -- who included dermatologist Lionel Bercovitch, MD, of Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School -- saw a pattern in which types of phones contain nickel and which don't.

"Cell phones intended for rugged use ... often have rubber coating and no surface nickel. Those with more fashionable designs often have metallic accents and are more likely to contain free nickel in their casings," Bercovitch and colleagues write in the Jan. 1 edition of the Canadian Medical Association's journal, CMAJ.

Bercovitch's team advises nickel-sensitive people to spot-test cell phones for nickel -- using kits made for consumers -- before selecting a cell phone.

A spokesperson for CTIA -The Wireless Association was not immediately available for comment.

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