Is That Smartphone Making You Itch?

Have you noticed an itchy rash since you started using your tablet computer or smartphone? You might think it is just your imagination, but there are new allergies popping up associated with mobile phones and wearable devices. Allergy testing is showing some people are sensitive to the materials used to make these products. What type allergy do you have if your smartphone makes you itch and what can you do about it?

Contact Dermatitis

The Mayo Clinic describes contact dermatitis as a red, itchy rash caused when something touches your skin. The immune system determines whatever you are touching like your cellphone is dangerous even though it is harmless.

The key to preventing further allergic outbreaks is finding out what is causing the rash. In some cases that may require allergy testing.

Allergy Testing Procedures

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates over 50 million people in the United States have some type of allergy. One way doctors determine the cause of a reaction, or allergen, is through allergy testing.

If they are looking to find the allergen causing contact dermatitis, your physician will order skin tests to check for common allergens. The test involves scratching or pricking your skin and exposing you to a substance. If the doctor from places like suspects you are allergic to the material from your mobile device, the test will probably be for nickel.

Nickel Allergies

An allergy to the metal nickel causes contact dermatitis. The New York Times reports that nickel allergies are on the rise because more people are holding or wearing devices containing the metal. The article states that 10 to 20 percent of the population is sensitive to nickel, yet, there are no restrictions on its use in mobile devices.

In February of 2014, one manufacturer had to recall a wearable device that measures physical activity, because it was causing nickel reactions. Nickel is found in:

  • Tablet computers
  • Watches
  • Wearable mobile devices
  • Cellphones

Even some children's toys contain this metal. Early exposure can create sensitivity for the child as he or she grows and starts using mobile devices.

Other Possible Allergens

Allergies are very personal, and any substance can cause one. Allergies associated with mobile devices include:

  • Plastic
  • The rubber used in the buttons
  • The clear protective coating

Once you rule out nickel as the problem, it might be necessary to take allergy tests to look for other possible allergens.

Managing an Allergy

The type reaction you have will depend on the allergen. People with nickel allergies can develop rashes all over the body. If the allergy is from plastic or other substances you touch, it will affect only the contact area. Look for:

  • Dry patches of skin
  • Bumps
  • Blisters
  • Itching areas

Treat the rash with a soothing lotion like calamine. It might be necessary to apply a hydrocortisone product to the area, as well, to alleviate the itching. Take an oral antihistamine is you have problems controlling the outbreak.

Preventing Allergic Reactions

Start by putting a protective cover, or sleeve, on any mobile device you use. This might be all it takes to keep your skin from coming in contact with the allergen. If the rash appears under a wearable device, then stop using that product.

When a smartphone is the problem, use a Bluetooth or hands-free connection. This limits your contact with the phone and will keep it away from your face. If you develop a rash on the tips of your fingers from texting, wear cotton gloves when handling the phone.

It is difficult to pinpoint what is causing an allergy, but if the itch increases when you handle your phone or tablet computer, that might be the answer. Ask your doctor what cellphone is recommended for people with a nickel allergy.