The claim: Cellphones can cause an allergic reaction.
The facts: Talking on a cellphone for long periods can carry certain risks, like getting dirty looks from those around you. But allergies?
In recent years, dermatologists have seen a small but growing number of people with itchy rashes along their jaw lines, face and ears which go away when cellphone use is discontinued.
The reason, studies suggest, is an allergy to metals in the phones, most often nickel.
Women are more likely to be affected because they are often sensitised to it by ear piercings and metal jewellery, said Dr Clifford Bassett, a New York City allergist and fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who has treated the conditions.
It is unclear how many people develop allergic reaction to their phones but the medical literature is rife with case studies.
In a typical case, described by researchers at Brown University and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008, an 18-year-old developed a strange rash on the right side of his face.
When his cellphone headset tested positive for nickel, he switched to a nickel-free phone and the allergy cleared up.
The researchers later tested 22 popular models of cellphones and found nickel in 10 of them, mostly in the headsets and menu buttons.
For those who suspect a metal allergy, a patch test at a doctor’s office can provide confirmation, Dr Bassett said, adding that a simple swab test can reveal the presence of nickel in a phone or other product.
The Bottom Line: In people with nickel allergies, cellphones can cause an allergic reaction.
- The New York Times