Ear Infection

Ear piercings: Am I allergic?

Fact Checked

Metal allergy can be evident among those who have ear piercings or once the skin is exposed to metals such as necklaces, watches or other types of jewelry. It is important to note that this form of allergic reaction is known as contact dermatitis and develops as a response of the body to any impurities in metal products.

Contact dermatitis can be managed by avoiding the irritating jewelry and the application of local creams to help soothe the inflammation. Individuals who have metal allergy must only use earrings that are labelled as hypoallergenic.

Possible causes of metal allergy to ear piercings

Unlike with other allergic reactions such as hives or asthma which manifest right after exposure to the irritant, contact dermatitis slowly forms and eventually subsides in a slow rate. The immune system reacts to the impurities in jewelry and triggers the distinctive rash of contact dermatitis.

Several earrings that are made out of metallic-alloy usually contain fluctuating amounts of admixed nickel. Take note that nickel is capable of triggering reactions in many individuals and the most common culprit of contact dermatitis.

Ear piercings
When it comes to ear piercings, the rash that manifests is usually around the area of the piercing which is often labeled as earlobe dermatitis.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of contact dermatitis typically manifest in 2-3 days after exposure to the metal. When it comes to ear piercings, the rash that manifests is usually around the area of the piercing which is often labeled as earlobe dermatitis. The skin appears elevated, itchy and reddened. After some time, small-sized blisters can also form which seep watery fluid. In severe cases, the skin can become cracked and leathery. The rashes are often worse in the summer since sweating will allow the irritants to penetrate deep into the skin.


The ideal form of treatment for contact dermatitis due to ear piercings is avoidance of the irritant substance. A steroid cream can be applied to hasten the recovery. In case the rash continues despite these measures, a doctor should be consulted to determine if there are other substances triggering the reaction. The testing is done via a skin test. Once other irritating substances have been identified, they must be avoided to prevent the recurrence of the rash.

Close look on hypoallergenic earrings

Cheap earrings usually contain nickel which can trigger reactions among sensitive individuals. Those who have nickel allergies must make sure that they use jewelry that is hypoallergenic or free from nickel.

The hypoallergenic variants have lower nickel content. On the other hand, some individuals still experience a reaction even if these are used. The earrings that are made out of stainless steel and titanium are less likely to trigger a reaction. Those that are made out of gold and silver are considered highly unreactive.

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