Could you be allergic to your phone?

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Redness, swelling, itching? Oozing? Not a pleasant set of symptoms, but one you run the risk of experiencing if you're a cellphone user, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Increased use of cellphones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to the nickel in phones," says allergist Luz Fonacier."Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction."

Nickel is one of the most common contact allergens, says the ACII, and affects up to 17 percent of women and three percent of men. Most of the nickel objects in day-to-day life, such as keys, coins and paper clips, are handled only briefly, meaning that few people experience any allergic reaction.

However, says Fonacier, the frequent, prolonged exposure entailed by  cellphone use makes problems more likely.

"Allergists are seeing increasing numbers of nickel allergy among patients," says Fonacier. "Some researchers suggest that there should be more nickel regulation in the US like there is in some European countries."

Symptoms, says the ACII, include redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and sometimes the aforementioned oozing and scarring.

For cellphones, says Fonacier, try using a plastic film cover or a wireless ear piece. If all else fails, switch to a phone that doesn't contain metal on surfaces that contact the skin.

If you suspect you may have a problem, there's a self-test here.