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Allergy from nickel in iPad causes mystery rash on young boy

An 11-year-old boy has an allergic reaction to nickel found on iPad.
An 11-year-old boy has an allergic reaction to nickel found on iPad.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After six months of suffering from a strange rash, an unnamed 11-year-old boy’s case is bringing to light a bigger concern for parents who allow their children to play on their electronic devices. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, July 14, that the boy's rash was caused by an allergic reaction to nickel found on his family’s iPad.

The case, which appeared in the July 14 online issue of the medical journal, Pediatrics, revealed that after an increase in the use of a 2010 iPad the child came down with a rash. The adolescent who has a history of skin issues was said to not be responding to his usual rash medicine. He was treated at Rady Children’s Hospital.

After doing a skin graph test on the boy, nickel was discovered to be the culprit. It was then found that the iPad contained nickel in its backing. Sharon E. Jacob, MD, a dermatologist at Rady Children's Hospital, and Shehla Admani, MD, the doctors that wrote the journal, call this skin irritation allergic contact dermatitis, which lists exposure to nickel as the cause for the reaction. Nickel is one of the most allergy-inducing metals.

“With the increasing prevalence of nickel allergy in the pediatric population, it is important for clinicians to continue to consider metallic-appearing electronics and personal effects as potential sources of nickel exposure,” the report stated.

Jacob said that nickel allergies are showing up more and more, abcNews shared. Jacobs pointed out that a decade ago only 17 percent of children had nickel reactions. Today, national data shows 25 percent of children who are tested for skin allergies are allergic to nickel.

A spokeswoman from the Nickel Institute, Clare Richardson, said that about 17 percent of women and three percent of men have nickel allergies. Legislation from the European Union is said to be limiting the amount of nickel that is released from products, she added.

Nickel can be found in ear piercings, dental work, laptops, cellphones and video game controllers among other things. Although the rash is not life threatening, it can be very uncomfortable. If said rash becomes infected the patient would need to use steroids and antibiotics to treat it.

WebMD reports that in the case of the 11-year-old, after putting a protective case on the tablet his symptoms decreased dramatically. Both Apple spokesman, Chris Gaither, and Microsoft spokeswoman, Ryan Bartholomew, did not comment on the nickel discussion.