If you have this allergy — don’t talk on a cell phone

November 25, 2008
Volume 05    |   Issue 45

The jury is still out about whether or not cell phones can damage your brain or cause cancer. Some people are avoiding them just in case the allegations are true. But now we do have evidence that they can cause another health problem.

Dermatologists recently found a new and unexpected allergic skin reaction in some of their patients. They’re calling the condition “mobile phone dermatitis,” and it’s causing rashes on the faces of people who are sensitive to a particular metal.

If you have had a rash on your cheek or ear on the side of your face where you hold your cell phone, your cell phone’s metal casing could be the culprit.

Some people are sensitive to nickel, used in the casing of many cell phones. Especially some of the designer models. A number of people who spend long amounts of time on their cell phones are getting rashes from them.

If you’re a woman who has ever had an allergic reaction to inexpensive jewelry, you may very well have this sensitivity to nickel. And if you’ve already had rashes or skin irritation from nickel-coated jewelry at any time in the past, you’re at a higher risk for developing mobile phone dermatitis.

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You can avoid this reaction simply by using an earphone when you’re making and receiving calls. And by limiting the length of time you spend on your phone. You also can find a cell phone with a casing that doesn’t contain nickel. In one U.S. study, the researchers found that only half of the cell phones they tested contained nickel. And some cases will protect you from the phone’s metal.

Unfortunately, your face isn’t the only place this rash can occur. Do you have an irritating rash on your fingers? It could be from too much texting. The bottom line is, if you’re sensitive to nickel, avoid contact with it whenever possible.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


"Cellphone contact dermatitis with nickel allergy," Lionel Bercovitch, MD* and John Luo; *Department of Dermatology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Liberal Medical Education, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

CMAJ, January 1, 2008; 178 (1). doi:10.1503/cmaj.071233.



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