When an 11-year-old boy in San Diego developed a nasty skin allergy, doctors traced it to the nickel in his family's iPad.
They also found a quick and easy solution – cover the iPad's metal surfaces with a form-fitting case.
The incident highlights the importance of considering "metallic-appearing electronics and personal effects as potential sources of nickel exposure" and nickel allergy, wrote Drs. Sharon Jacob and Shehla Admani, dermatologists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
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They reported the case in the journal Paediatrics.
According to the two doctors, skin outbreaks known as allergic contact dermatitis are "becoming increasingly prevalent" among children, with exposures to nickel being a prime culprit.
"Common sources of nickel exposure in children include nickel-releasing clothing fasteners, ear piercings, and nickel-containing dental work," they said. Other sources include laptops, cellphones, video-game controllers and even wind-up toys.
But the 11-year-old's case was different. He came to UCSD's Rady Children's Hospital with a generalized rash that had plagued him for more than six months, and wasn't reacting to allergy creams he'd been using in the past.
Skin patch testing revealed a nickel allergy. After consulting with the boy's parents, a 2010 model iPad that he often used was determined to be the cause.
Read: Wireless skin patch transmits medical info
The solution: covering the iPad with a "Smart Case" designed to cover the nickel-laden back of the device. The doctors noted that parents don't even have to purchase a Smart Case – covering the metallic back of the iPad with duct tape will also do the trick.
After the protective case was added to the iPad, the boy's condition "significantly improved", the doctors said. They advise parents who have concerns about possible nickel allergies to seek out products with nickel-free casings.
Two dermatologists weren't surprised by the case.
"Laptop computers and cellphones can be sources of exposure," said Dr. Doris Day, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said dermatologists often have to do a little "medical detective work" to figure out what object might be causing a dermatitis outbreak.
Dr. Gary Goldenberg is assistant professor of dermatology and pathology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He said that "nickel allergy is one of the most common allergies seen in dermatology. It may cause acute reactions, with itching, crusting and redness, as well as a chronic dermatitis with scaling and redness. It's not surprising that increased nickel exposure is leading to an increase in nickel allergy in kids."
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