August 13, 2015
1 min read

Nickel in belt buckles may cause allergic reaction in children

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Children, particularly those with atopic dermatitis, are at risk for a severe allergic reaction if they wear a belt buckle made of nickel, according to a recent study.

“Nickel allergic contact dermatitis has become increasingly recognized in the pediatric population, with prevalence rates in patch-tested populations of approximately 25%,” Alina Goldenberg, MD, MAS, of the division of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues wrote. “As harmless as a belt buckle may appear to be, it can be a significant sensitizer in the pediatric population at risk for nickel allergic contact dermatitis.”

The researchers studied 12 pediatric patients aged 9 to 15 years with clinically apparent nickel dermatitis. Patients were screened for the allergic reaction associated with nickel dermatitis, which often manifests within hours to days of contact with a nickel-containing substance. Reactions with the skin often appeared as an erythematous base with overlying pruritic papules and vesicles.

To determine the origin of the nickel exposure, the researchers tested each patient’s pants to evaluate whether the metal components were made of nickel. After none tested positive, they tested the belt buckles and identified them as the source of exposure.

After being instructed to avoid contact with the nickel belt buckles, 10 of the patients reported a significant decrease in dermatitis symptoms within 1 to 5 weeks. The researchers said the severity of the initial symptoms determined the time necessary for dermatitis to dissipate.

“It is important to continue considering metallic-appearing accessories as potential nickel exposure sources and, whenever possible, recommending avoidance of prolonged skin contact to metal with nickel-releasing content,” Goldenberg and colleagues wrote – by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.