When you’re allergic to a type of metal in earrings, it can cause an allergic reaction, which means, if you’re like many people this happens to, you can’t wear many pairs of earrings. You might feel upset when you can’t wear earrings with your favorite outfit, but there might be hope yet in the form of sterling silver earrings.
Hypoallergenic and “Filler Metal”
The definition of “hypoallergenic” is that it describes something that is pretty unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. So, in the case of sterling silver earrings, it is possible, that, depending on what the filler metal is in it, that you can wear certain types of them. Be aware, however, that “hypoallergenic” doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to wear earrings with that label.
First, let’s define what “sterling silver” actually means. You need to know that in order to understand “filler metal.” Sterling silver has to be a minimum of 92.5 percent pure silver. The other 7.5 percent of the metal in it can be another type(s) of metal. Usually, the filler metal is copper, which is also non-allergenic and soft, like silver. However, earrings need something else to help them keep their shape, says Tawny Reynolds of SunDropJewelry.com.
The rest of the filler metal is usually nickel, which can actually be an allergen to many people. On the other hand, that other metal could be tin, boron, lithium, germanium, indium, platinum, or zinc, which typically don’t cause people any problems. Argentium sterling silver is one type of sterling silver that contains germanium instead of nickel.
However, if you’re looking at a pair of sterling silver earrings, you want to make sure that the label indicates that they are made with “nickel-free sterling silver” or “hypoallergenic sterling silver.” That way, you can be relatively certain that what you’re about to put in your ears doesn’t contain nickel, which there is a good chance causes an allergic reaction in your ears when you wear earrings containing nickel.
It’s important to be aware, Reynolds notes, that just because a label says the earrings don’t contain any nickel, you can’t be sure that they don’t. Sometimes the labels flat out lie.
There are other labels for silver earrings that you need to be aware of. One of them is “silver plated.” This just means that there is a thin layer of silver over a base metal like nickel, tin, copper, etc. that can easily come off. When that coating comes off, your skin is exposed to the metal underneath, which could well be nickel.
A piece of jewelry that is “silver-filled” isn’t really an inner core of silver, covered by another metal. It’s just a thicker layer of silver coating that won’t come off as easily as if it were “silver plated.”
You have another option than sterling silver made without nickel if you’re looking for hypoallergenic earrings. You will have to shell out some more bucks for the privilege, but you can likely wear “fine” silver or gold, which is made from 99.9 percent silver or gold.
Stainless steel is another choice for people with nickel allergies. While it is an alloy that often includes nickel, some people can wear it if it has lower nickel content. Hypoallergenic-type stainless steel may be called SC45 Steel or 430 Stainless. These types are composed of one percent nickel, but 304 Stainless steel can be more than 10 percent nickel.
Stainless steel contains steel, which is iron with carbon, chromium, and nickel to cut down on brittleness. 304 stainless steel contains 8-10.5 percent nickel, 0.08 percent carbon, and 18-20 percent chromium, including iron and trace elements of silicon, phosphorous, sulfur, manganese, and nitrogen. 430 stainless steel has less than 0.75 percent nickel, and some forms of it meet the EU nickel directive of having under 0.05 percent nickel ion migration. XC45 Steel has less than or 0.3 percent nickel, 0.42-0.5 percent carbon, and silicon, manganese, sulfur, phosphorous, chromium, and copper.
Niobium is another type of hypoallergenic metal. It’s often used like titanium in medical implants. You’ll never find it plated or painted, and its color comes from its being anodized in an electric bath. Niobium doesn’t have additives, so you can wear its yellows, blues, blacks, greys, or copper hues without worrying about an allergic reaction.
What should you look for if you are not sure if you’re allergic to nickel? When you put your sterling silver earrings in, look for redness, itching, burning, swelling, and/or a skin rash where the earring touches your ear. You might also experience a green or dark grey stain on your skin. The ear and wrist are likely to be more sensitive than, say, your chest, where a necklace would rest. There is a good chance that you’re allergic to nickel if you experience any of these symptoms when you’re wearing earrings not made of fine silver or gold, sterling silver made without nickel, or stainless steel with very low amounts of nickel.
It’s possible that nickel is not really what you’re allergic to at all. You could be allergic to copper or to any non-pure metal. Trying different types of hypoallergenic earrings is really the only way to find one type of metal that you can wear in your ears.
There is no United States definition of what is nickel-free, and alloys contain different amounts of it. You can find items with very low nickel is to find jewelry that indicate they meet the EU Nickel Directive. You can also just avoid alloys altogether and focus on metals not combined with any other metal, such as niobium and titanium.
So as you choose your next pair of earrings, be careful about what type of stainless steel you choose. Buying earrings that are made of elemental metal, that contain very low amounts of nickel, or which are free of it entirely can help ensure that you will be able to avoid an allergic reaction to them. If you can, find stainless steel earrings or other types of earrings that meet the EU nickel directive to keep your ears happy and looking good.
Can You Have an Allergic Reaction to Deodorant?
Your deodorant could be causing you to have an allergic reaction, and you may not even know it. The UK nonprofit Allergy UK did a survey entitled Stolen Lives, and more than 50 percent of respondents said they had symptoms that related to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which is a reaction to artificial substances like those found in perfumes and deodorants. Most people in the survey said they didn’t even understand that they had the condition, noted Naomi Coleman of the Daily Mail.
While MCS isn’t an allergy, it is a testament to the fact that the human body is very sensitive to chemicals. MCS causes headaches, skin rashes, memory loss, wheezing, and other breathing problems. An allergy happens when the immune system fights a usually harmless substance. MCS can cause the immune system to weaken, causing further allergies, when toxins enter the blood stream. When you have an allergic reaction, histamine is produced in the body as the immune system looks for something to fight off, even if it can’t find an infection to defeat.
How Deodorants and Anti-Perspirants Work
To fend off offensive body odor or to prevent perspiration, you may use an anti-perspirant or deodorant, or a combination product. According to LiveStrong.com, “sweat from your aporcrine glands contains fat, which the natural bacteria on your body consume, producing odor as a byproduct.” Deodorants cut down on the growth of bacteria by making your armpit area more acidic, and they also often contain fragrances that bacteria create. Anti-perspirants, on the other hand, usually have aluminum in them, which reacts to reduce how much sweat your body produces.
These products are among the most tested of personal care products for possible causes of allergy.
When you have an allergic reaction to a deodorant or anti-perspirant, you’re likely to have contact dermatitis, which is a skin irritation at the location where you apply the product to your underarm. You skin may itch, be bumpy and red, and it can peel, flake, blister, and ooze. You may also experience hives.
One reason why you may have this type of reaction to the product is that you’re allergic to the fragrance in it. About 90 percent of deodorants and anti-perspirants have fragrances, so you might have a difficult time finding one without fragrance, but it’s not impossible.
As you read labels and learn the different names for types of fragrances, also be aware that a product may be labeled as unscented, but it could use a fragrance to mask the smells of other chemicals in the product.
According to Matthew J. Zirwas, MD and Jessica Moennich, MD in a 2008 article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, “[a]bout 3,000 compounds are used in the perfume industry, and individual products may contain anywhere from 10 to 300 of these, making diagnosis and avoidance of the offending agent extremely difficult.”
You may also suffer from contact dermatitis from your deodorant or anti-perspirant because you’re allergic to propylene glycol, which is a carrier for the product’s active ingredients, vitamin E, parabens, and lanolin (which a rather rare ingredient in deodorants and an uncommon general allergen). If you use a deodorant with essential oils, you may also be allergic to them.
According to GetHolisticHealth.com, “[a] deodorant allergy is not only caused by someone using a new product and in fact is more commonly caused by an existing product and a build up of the allergen over a long period of time.”
To find out if you’re allergic to your deodorant, you need to do a patch test with your own deodorant or antiperspirant that you think may be causing you problems. An allergist is the type of physician who can do this test. Another patch test, called the T.R.U.E. test, may not detect your allergy to unusual fragrances or propylene glycol.
While an underarm rash could be caused by an allergy to your deodorant or anti-perspirant, make sure you get it further evaluated if it doesn’t respond to treatment, as it could be another problem, like a fungal or yeast infection, or perhaps a type of cancer. A dermatologist can better determine what the problem is.
To treat a deodorant or antiperspirant allergy, your doctor will probably give you a topical corticosteroid, but you may also be given oral or injected forms if you have a severe reaction. This is just the short-term treatment. In the end, you’ll need to avoid using products that cause your reaction.
A patch test can help identify a specific chemical, and in the future, you can avoid using it. If it can’t be determined what is causing your allergic reaction, then try a hypoallergenic form of deodorant or anti-perspirant. Zeolite crystals are one alternative to deodorants and antiperspirants, and there are also many other alternatives available on the market.
To use the topical steroid, clean the affected area gently so that it doesn’t contain any of the possible offending deodorant or anti-perspirant. Use a fragrance-free soap to do this. Allow it to air dry, and avoid using a towel, which could further irritate your skin. Spread the cortisone medication over the affected area. If you use an oral medication, it will cut back on your body’s production of histamine and help prevent the problem from worsening.
If you use a deodorant, try to avoid a spray deodorant so the chemicals are more contained, which can leave you less likely to have a reaction, suggests Coleman. Also, try a deodorant without any perfumes.
Definitely see your doctor if you’re experiencing weeping of the affected area to prevent infection from setting in, and also see your doctor before you start over-the-counter medication if you have hives. According to LiveStrong.com, “[m]ore severe signs of an allergy to your deodorant include severe swelling, swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, racing heart rate, abdominal pain, diarrhea, wheezing or dizziness, which can all be warning signs of potentially deadly anaphylaxis,” so definitely seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
Even with patch testing, it is important to be aware that it can be very difficult to determine what specific ingredient is causing your allergic reaction. You can try crystal products or those with low allergenicity to see if they help alleviate your symptoms. If one type doesn’t work, you can try another.
Also try to remove foods that cause worse odor like garlic and onions from your diet, and bathe more often. Wear clothes that breathe better to help stop sweating as well. If symptoms persist, visit with a dermatologist to do more detailed testing to help determine the cause of your reaction.
What are Bed Mites?
When you go to sleep at night, you’re probably not thinking about the microscopic creatures who love to eat your dead skin and who thrive in damp environments. They are in your pillow, mattress, on your sheets and blankets. They are bed mites, also known as the house dust mite. They are everywhere, and they can cause a problem in any building anywhere, whether it is clean or dirty.
Where else do these little creatures live? You will also find them in your rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture – just about anywhere where people sit or lie down. Because your bed is damp, they love to hang out there.
They don’t just eat your dead skin, though. They can eat cereal, yeast, and even dog or fish food. They will also eat pet skin, too.
One good thing about dust mites is that they don’t actually bite you, so you’re not going to experience rashes, itching, and pain from dust mites like you would other types of mites, like chiggers, which cause havoc in the southern parts of the United States when you walk through tall grasses.
Adult bed, or dust, mites have a life span of between one and three months. You don’t have to let them live that long, though.
These microscopic organisms are just about one-fourth to one-third of a millimeter in size. You can’t see them with your eyes, but under the microscope, they resemble bugs with eight legs, which makes them arthropods, like spiders.
They like temperatures of between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels of between 70 and 80 percent.
Can you guess how many species there are of dust mites? Thirteen! They feast on the up to 1.5 grams of skin you shed every day. That amount can satiate the hunger of one million dust mites.
Allergies and Treatment
The reactions that dust mites can cause in those allergic to them or in people with asthma can be severe. They may also be rather mild. You may be allergic to them and not even realize it.
It’s been posited that dust mites are the most common cause of allergies that happen throughout the year and asthma. They live on every continent except Antarctica.
You may have itchy, red, or watery eyes, a stuffy nose, or you may sneeze. You could have postnasal drip, a cough, or an itchy nose, mouth or throat if you have an allergy to dust mites. If you have asthma, you may also have a hard time breathing, pain or tightness in your chest, or wheezing when you breathe, or you may find it difficult to sleep because of coughing, wheezing, or having shortness of breath.
Your doctor can do a skin prick test or a specific IgE blood test to see if you have an allergy to dust mites. It’s important to understand that just because you have positive tests, it does not mean that that specific allergen caused an actual allergy.
You may find relief from antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, leukotriene receptor antagonists (which stop the action of important chemical messengers besides histamine) that happen in allergic reactions, coromolyn sodium (blocks your body’s release of chemicals that cause symptoms of allergies), or decongestants. Allergy shots are another option, and they change how your body’s immune system responds to allergens.
How to Significantly Reduce the Number of Dust Mites in Your Home
First, dust your room as often as you can. Use a cloth that captures dust instead of just spreading it around. No feather duster is going to help you get rid of dust mites. Cover your bedding with dust mite proof bed covers. Vinyl and plastic options are cheapest, but you can also find fabric allergen-impermeable covers. That includes your mattress, pillows, box springs, duvets, etc.
Also, wash your sheets and pillow cases every week in hot water (at least 113, but preferably around 140 degrees Fahrenheit). You can also use an anti-allergen detergent or a dust mite laundry additive. These unravel the protein allergen in the sheets, pillowcases and blankets.
Another way to cut down on the number of dust mites in your home is to use a denaturing allergy product like X-mite Carpet treatment, or ADMS or ADS spray, and use it on your furniture, curtains, rugs, and carpet. However, remember that these products contain chemicals that you may not want to use in your home. Determine your level of comfort with dust mites before you use these types of products. If you’re severely allergic to them, it makes sense to try them.
You can also use a dehumidifier to get rid of extra moisture in your home, especially your living or family rooms and bedrooms. Since dust mites like moist environments, they won’t be able to enjoy their lives as much if you dehumidify the air. In fact, they die, but their dead bodies and waste (digestive enzymes they excrete) can continue to cause allergic reactions.
Clean your bedroom the best since is where most dust mites live. Use a HEPA-filter vacuum, and consider wearing a mask when you clean to prevent breathing in the dust as you stir it around when you dust and vacuum.
Get hard floors instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, and get furniture that is not upholstered. Avoid fabric blinds, curtains, or down-filled covers and pillows. Use roll-type shades on windows in place of fabric draperies.
While dust mites will always be present in your home, getting rid of as many of them as possible will significantly decrease your allergic symptoms to them.