From the Beginning.
So, I thought being allergic to fragrance was the worst thing that could happen to me… I was wrong. Starting with a short history of my life, I have a crappy immune system. I have seasonal allergies and an allergy to all fragrance. This means using only products that are fragrance-free or contain natural fragrance. I also have very sensitive skin on top of that which means using all hypo-allergenic products. I have been dealing with skin allergies all my life which overtime was easy to control and handle.
Fast-forward to three years ago. Got my first apartment in this beautiful old building from the late 1800’s. I started noticing my hands would itch all the time, then after I would shower my whole body would itch. Assuming it was just dry skin I would ignore it, put some lotion on and carry on. As the months go by I was getting progressively worse. Shaving my legs would cause a burning rash that was intense and itchy. When I would drink out of cans, my lips would break out and go numb. My cheeks would be beat red where my cellphone rested and any jewelry I wore would cause a rash. I got so uncomfortable that I couldn’t focus or sleep, my skin was covered in rash patches and blisters. My skin was hot to touch.
I knew it was time to see a Doctor when I had to be rushed to the hospital from a spiked fever. I literally couldn’t move my hands or my legs from the pain. I was missing patches of the first layer of skin on multiple parts of my body. I got diagnosed with a deadly infection that if went untreated could have spread to my joints and organs. Harsh antibiotics and steroids helped temporarily but no one knew what caused all of this chaos.
After weeks of blood tests making sure the infection was gone, then weeks of biopsies, I finally got the patch test done. The patch test is when Doctors place 20-30 different chemical patches on your back for 72 hours. If you break out on one of the patch sites then you have a “Winner”. Well, can I say that test is as legitimate as they come but it was pure misery, longest 3 days of my life. For someone who couldn’t go more than 24 hours without antihistamines, I had to refrain from all medications for the full three days and a week prior. I was in pure agony and discomfort with fevers and anxiety. That and you can’t shower either. I immediately felt itchy on one of the patches which at first was a relief, I had an answer but having to go 72 hours with that itch was torture. At the end of the test I was diagnosed with a severe nickel sulfate allergy and a gold allergy too. Nickel is the most common metal which meant a strict lifestyle change which wasn’t going to be easy.
Here’s the stressful but less painful and least scary part of any diagnosis. After counseling and tons of research I was able to start my transition to a nickel free lifestyle which was harder than I thought. So many common items have nickel in them, to name a few, belts, jewelry, buttons, studs on jeans and jackets, zippers, tools, scissors, firearms, keys, coins, glasses, watches, silverware, cookware, cellphones, faucets and doorknobs.
I was so physically sick in my apartment because of the nickel doorknobs and the old-school piping which shed nickel into the hot water. First thing I did was move, I got all stainless-steel doorknobs and faucets, wore gloves till my hands were fully cleared up and bought all plastic silverware. My computer at work has a plastic keyboard and plastic mouse. I gave away all my jewelry and got all stainless steel and sterling silver. I painted clear nail polish on all my jean buttons, I had to get a full coverage cellphone case and switch to all plastic pens. I also had to switch to a titanium razor which was difficult to find.
Surviving in a World full of Nickel
Almost two years after my diagnosis and I am still learning and struggling. I am always vigilant and aware of my surroundings. I carry a baby washcloth in my purse for doorknobs, I let hot water run for a full minute before showering or washing my hands. I use only plastic silverware and carry a spare set in my purse for restaurant use. I drink out of bottles and not cans, I use a titanium razor and I wear only certain types of jewelry.
If I do touch nickel I wash my hands immediately. If I feel itchy I put medicated creams on my skin. My family, friends and coworkers know of my allergy to help accommodate and comfort myself. The hardest part of all of this is making sure that infection never comes back. It’s very easy for it to come back so taking the preventative steps will save me from ever going through this nightmare again. If you think you may have a nickel allergy than go see a Dermatologist right away. The proper diagnosis can save you from months of fear, pain and discomfort that I had to go through.