An allergic reaction to silver jewelry might take several years to manifest since it takes time for the jewelry surface to tarnish. This reaction is a nickel allergy. The allergy is a type of contact dermatitis that arises if a small trace of nickel used in the silver jewelry leached out and in contact with the skin. Since pure silver is soft to be utilized as jewelry, nickel is added to sterling silver for improved strength and luster.
What are the indications?
If an individual is highly sensitive to silver jewelry, the indications of contact dermatitis are usually present. The skin surrounding and under the piece of jewelry becomes inflamed, dry and itchy.
In severe cases of allergic reactions, the skin might turn reddened, scaly and flaky. The blisters and rashes might also break out. In less severe reactions, the skin is only mildly irritated and discolored.
Depending on the other alloys utilized in the silver jewelry, the discoloration might be blue, black or green. The discoloration is triggered by the oxidation of silver or the repetitive use of lotions and soap on the skin with the jewelry.
The chemical changes can also trigger a reaction among sensitive individuals. Take note that the discoloration is not always an allergic reaction. In some cases, it might be harmless and readily washed off.
Nickel allergy affects some individuals. It is important to note that nickel is utilized in small traces in silver jewelry and can reach the skin if the silver surface of the jewelry has been tarnished.
If combined with moisture and other elements present in the skin, nickel produces nickel salts which are the reason for the allergic reactions.
The allergies can be detected with a patch test. Alternately, a modified test can be done at home by taping a nickel coin on the interior of the arm for 48 hours. If highly sensitive to nickel, there are indications of contact dermatitis on the skin.
Management of reactions to silver jewelry
When managing allergic reactions to silver jewelry, it is recommended to use moisturizers, hydrocortisone creams and antihistamines.
If the individual continues to use the jewelry, further allergic reactions can be prevented by coating the side that is in contact with the skin with various products specifically designed to create a transparent shield. Another alternative is to apply clear nail polish.
Electroplating a silver piece can also help in preventing nickel from leaching out. Other options include keeping the skin and silver clean, wearing silver jewelry less often and applying powder to the skin under the jewelry.