Can you be allergic to your cellphone?


Yes, it’s possible to get an “allergic phone call” or “be allergic to your cell phone” – In fact, Up to 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men can have allergies to their cellphones due to the metal nickel commonly found on phone trim and faceplates. Let’s explore the causes and management of an “allergic phone call.”

Cause of an “allergic phone call”:

Normally, our immune system reacts to protect your body against bacteria, viruses or toxic substances. However, allergic reactions happen when our body recognizes a known substance as foreign. The immune system becomes sensitive to it and every future exposure causes an allergic immune response. If you have nickel allergy, your body’s immune system reacts to nickel and sometimes, to other metals like cobalt and palladium. The immune system's sensitivity to nickel may develop after first exposure or after repeated or prolonged exposure. Symptoms of an “allergic phone call”: Young girls are often first exposed to nickel when they get their ears pierced. Hence, they are more likely to develop a sensitivity to the metal that can cause allergic reactions in future. Sensitive individuals can develop swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and even oozing and scarring from coming into contact with nickel. Therefore, if you are an enthusiastic cell phone user, it could be harmful for you. Sources that cause sensitization to an “allergic phone call”: Common sources of nickel exposure include:

  • Jewelry for body piercings
  • Other jewelry, including rings, bracelets, necklaces and jewelry clasps
  • Watchbands
  • Clothing fasteners, such as zippers, snaps and bra hooks
  • Belt buckles
  • Eyeglass frames
  • Coins
  • Metal tools
  • Keys

Tests and solution to an “allergic phone call”:

Your evaluation (history and physical examination) with an allergist can help suspect nickel allergy but, patch test can be a diagnostic tool to confirm it. The only solution is to avoid nickel altogether or avoid contact with nickel. You can get a plastic cover for the phone, a wireless headset or a different phone. Using over the counter or prescription topical corticosteroid creams can help with an acute reaction.