Nickel Contact Hypersensitivity in Children


Nanette B. Silverberg M.D. Department of Dermatology, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1090 Amsterdam Ave., Suite 11D, New York, NY 10025, or e-mail:


Nickel allergic contact dermatitis is the most prevalent allergy in North America, with an incidence of 14.3%. It is on the rise from 10 years ago, when the incidence was 10%. This has been presumed to represent an increased exposure to nickel in the environment—especially in costume jewelry and belt buckles. We examined a group of 30 pediatric patients who had either a personal history of umbilical or wrist dermatitis, or a family history of nickel allergic contact dermatitis. All of these patients had a positive patch test to nickel sulfate 5%. Moreover, 50% of patients had an id reaction; all of these patients had positive patch tests that were papular in nature, similar to their papular id reaction. We posit that the presence of a positive family history may be a positive predictor of nickel allergic contact dermatitis, requiring nickel avoidance, especially in atopic children. Based on the high level of positive reactions in patients with umbilical dermatitis and an id reaction, patch testing to nickel in these patients is most likely to yield a useful result. Knowledge of reactivity to nickel would then allow parents and patients to initiate nickel avoidance earlier in life.