Wearable electronics could trigger allergies

Posted at 11:48 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-05 23:48:31-04

Itchy, red and irritates, that's what happens to Sue McCann's arm when she wears her electronic fitness tracker.

She was surprised because she never suspected her tracker could trigger what doctors told her appears to be a nickel allergy, something dermatologist Dr. Laura Ferris says she is seeing more often.

"Traditionally we've seen nickel allergies in places like earrings or from belt buckles but now we're tending to see it a lot of the wrist from electronic fitness trackers," she said.

One popular model was recalled after thousands complained of skin irritation, which was later linked, in part, to nickel in the casing.  Now, some wearable companies are giving users a heads up that some contain "traces of nickel" and "some people may experience allergies."

Dr. Lawrence F. Eichenfield, M.D. dermatologist explained how nickel can impact some.

"Nickel reactions can range from a little local rash, infections of the skin, it can impact on sleep, it can certainly impact someone's occupation," he said.

But it's not just the fitness devices, a new bulletin from the American Academy of Dermatology said, "recent reports suggest that some electronic devices including cell phones, laptops and tablets may contain nickel".

People who are sensitive, according to Dr. Eichenfield, are most at risk.

"People who are really sensitive will break out from exposure and to even stainless steel because the amount of nickel that gets released is enough to make them sensitive and show a reaction or rash, he said.

According to the experts, if you are extremely sensitive to nickel you may want to avoid the following foods that contain high amounts of nickel: soy products-such as soybeans, soy sauce, and tofu-licorice, buckwheat, cocoa powder, clams, cashews and figs.

To avoid a reaction from electronics, you may want to put a protective cover on your device. Manufacturers say they're working closely with dermatologists to make sure products are less likely to cause reactions.

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