How do I Treat Jewelry Irritation?

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Dermatitis is an allergic reaction to jewelry that causes a skin rash and itching. The disorder is usually a response to nickel used as a filler metal in jewelry. The condition is typically limited to where the jewelry touches the ears, wrist or neck. According to the Merck Manual, about 10 percent of the population is allergic to nickel in jewelry. The irritation can arise after years of exposure. You don't have to visit your doctor to treat contact dermatitis; you can use some home remedies.

Things You'll Need

  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Calamine lotion
  • Compress
  • Antihistamines
Nickel is usally the metal in jewelry that causes irritation.
Nickel is usally the metal in jewelry that causes irritation.

Avoid the Allergen

Step 1

Avoid the cause. Many times just not wearing the jewelry will make the itching and rash go away. This is the easiest way to protect against future outbreaks. The Merck Manual reports that treatment is only effective when you stop all contact with the jewelry. If you should accidentally contact the jewelry, wash the exposed area immediately with soap and water.

Removing the irritating jewelry is the first defense against contact dermatitis.
Removing the irritating jewelry is the first defense against contact dermatitis.

Step 2

Try a commercial topical cream. You can buy hydrocortisone cream over the counter at drugstores. The Mayo Clinic recommends using a product that contains at least 1 percent hydrocortisone. Read the label then apply the cream directly to the affected area according to the instructions. Most mild cases of contact dermatitis will respond to this treatment. The itching and redness usually disapper after a few days. Calamine lotion is another effective over-the-counter topical treatment. WebMD cautions against applying an antihistamine cream because it, too, may trigger an allergic reaction.

Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion will help relieve the itch.
Hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion will help relieve the itch.

Step 3

Apply a moist, cold compress to the affected area. This treatment is useful if blisters appear as a result of exposure. WebMD recommends applying a compress to the affected area for 30 minutes three times a day. In addition to helping relieve the itch, an applied compress will discourage you from scratching. With a compress in place, blisters that may break open will not spread the rash to other parts of your body or to other people.

A gauze compress applied to the affected area will soothe the rash.
A gauze compress applied to the affected area will soothe the rash.

Step 4

Try an antihistamine. Oral medications on the market will help relieve the itching and scratching. You can buy these without a prescription at drugstores and other places where you can find over-the-counter medications. Typically, you should use antihistamines only when the itching is severe. Since oral medications take time to be effective, try using them in conjunction with applied creams or compresses.

If the itching is severe, and over the counter antihistamine can help.
If the itching is severe, and over the counter antihistamine can help.

Step 5

Visit the dermatologist. If the allergic reaction is severe or does not go away after a few days, you may need to consult a physician. Only a doctor can determine whether jewelry is causing the contact dermatitis. In severe or persistent cases she may prescribe medications. Physicians use these typically prescription-strength antihistamines or oral corticosteroids to reduce any swelling or inflammation and to help reduce the itching and scratching.

Physician intervention may be required if the irritation is severe.
Physician intervention may be required if the irritation is severe.

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Tips & Warnings

  • Try the "clear nail polish trick" if you really like the jewelry. Brush a layer of clear nail polish on the item to provide a barrier between the jewelry and your skin. This can work especially well with the backs of clip-on earrings or the backs of watches that contain nickel. A piece of masking tape placed over the inside of the waistband snap on a pair of blue jeans may help if that is causing a problem.

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