Too much cell phone use can trigger an allergic reaction

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The idea that cell phones can give you cancer has pretty much completely been dismissed as a myth. But that doesn't mean cell phones don't some health risks. Too much cell phone use can actually cause an allergic reaction.

The problem is the nickel found in cell phones. The metal is one of the more common allergens caused by contact, and it affects a sizable chunk of the population, as 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men possess the allergy. Many items possess nickel, including keys, paper clips, and, rather unsurprisingly, certain coins (although the US five-cent coin is actually 75% copper and only 25% nickel, so its name is kind of inaccurate).

The good thing is that most people only handle these items very briefly - still long enough to cause minor irritation, but not long enough to create too much of a risk. That's changing as cell phone use becomes ever more frequent, as allergist Luz Fonacier explains:

"Increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to the nickel in phones. Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction. Allergists are seeing increasing numbers of nickel allergy among patients. Some researchers suggest that there should be more nickel regulation in the U.S. like there is in some European countries."


In its more severe forms the allergy can be pretty nasty, causing "redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and sometimes oozing and scarring." The good news is that people experiencing the allergic reaction can do things to greatly reduce these ill effects, and it's all about avoiding direct skin contact. Using a plastic cover or a wireless ear piece can help, although some people might just have to switch to another cell phone that doesn't have metal on its surface. None of these, however, are foolproof, and people who think they might be experiencing these reactions should consult allergists to figure out the best long-term approach.

[via Business Week]