Electronic gadgets containing nickel can cause skin rashes, reports say

July 13

Unexplained rash? Check your iPad. It turns out the popular tablet computer may contain nickel, one of the most common allergy-inducing metals.

Recent reports in medical journals detail nickel allergies from a variety of personal electronic devices, including laptops and cellphones. But it was an Apple iPad that caused an itchy body rash in an 11-year-old boy recently treated at a San Diego hospital, according to a report in Monday’s Pediatrics.

Nickel rashes aren’t life-threatening but they can be uncomfortable, and they may require treatment with steroids and antibiotics if the skin eruptions become infected, said Sharon Jacob, a dermatologist at Rady Children’s Hospital, where the boy was treated. Jacob, who co-wrote the report, said the young patient had to miss school because of the rash.

The boy had a common skin condition that causes scaly patches, but he developed a different rash all over his body that didn’t respond to standard treatment. Skin testing showed that he had a nickel allergy, and doctors traced it to an iPad his family had purchased in 2010.

Doctors tested the device and detected a chemical compound found in nickel in the iPad’s outer coating.


A rash on an unidentified 11-year-old boy from a nickel allergy: Case reports in medical journals detail nickel allergies from personal electronic devices, including laptops and cell phones. But it was an Apple iPad that caused an itchy body rash in this 11-year-old boy recently treated at a San Diego hospital, according to a report in Pediatrics. (AP/American Academy of Pediatrics)

“He used the iPad daily,” she said.

He got better after putting the device in a protective case, she said.

Whether all iPad models and other Apple devices contain nickel is uncertain; Apple spokesman Chris Gaither said the company had no comment.

Nickel rashes have been traced to other common products including some jewelry, eyeglass frames and zippers.

Jacob said evidence suggests nickel allergies are becoming more common, or increasingly recognized. She cited national data showing that about 25 percent of children who get skin tests for allergies have nickel allergies, vs. about 17 percent a decade ago.

She said doctors must consider electronic devices as potential sources when patients seek treatment for skin rashes.

Associated Press

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