This is How It Happens

Okay, my friends. I actually don't recommend using yourselves as a nickel allergy experiment, but it looks like that's what I've gone ahead and done.

My, That's Annoying

This is how it happens ... to us all of the time in all of these little ways. We just go about living life, and we scratch. We don't think about why we're scratching, it's just a little thing. I've had this little spot for a few days, at least, and for the last couple of days the only thing I've really thought is how annoying it is.

You would think that I, being me, would know better. Here I am, living in this Nickel-free world where I'm thinking about nickel, warning people about it and generally doing all my research so that you and I can wear shiny things that don't hurt ... you would think I would be alert to this kind of thing. But no, I had to go about living life in an ordinary kind of way, and it got me into trouble.

Well, you may not know this about me, but I play the fiddle. I don't talk about it much here, because, you know, it's not like I'm allergic to my fiddle ... or am I?? I've been taking lessons for a few years (okay, I've lost count), and it's been the source of some enjoyment. In fact, I recently started practicing, well... more. I won't say quite how much more, but enough that I'm improving the callouses on both of my hands, and people generally aren't running out of the room when I start to practice anymore, at least not so much. (The cats, however, remain my toughest critics.) Also, apparently, I've been working my little string box enough that it's started leaving little marks on me. It begins with ...

a spot. 

Just a spot. A thing that doesn't quite go away. Coincidentally, I've just finished reading a book called Nickel Allergy: The New Gluten by Jordan Taylor, and one of the things he mentions is the deep itch of nickel allergy. It's not just on the surface, it actually itches much further down, and you just can't scratch that kind of itch. I'm actually not complaining because my allergy is really very mild, but I'm learning (at least academically) a little of what it's really like for people with a much more severe condition. Also, ANY nickel allergy can become a more severe condition if continues to be irritated. So I don't intend to do that, and I hope you don't either.

So, really, how can a fiddle be the source of a nickel allergy, you ask? Well, I looked at the bottom of the instrument and had a genuine "head-smack" moment, realizing that in fact, there is a whole bunch of shiny metal right there, and what do you know, it matches right up with that spot on my neck. (affix heel of hand to forehead like this...)

Now that I see it, the fix is pretty easy. The actual metal piece is part of the chin rest, which is removable. I will use some of that really high tech stuff called clear fingernail polish and just put it on the metal. That should hold it off for a while longer at least. 

But what if ... 

this had been my first break-out? If I were a person who had no idea that I even had an allergy to nickel, how much longer would it be before I really put this puzzle together? I may have come up with a dozen different theories, and tried more than a dozen solutions before I finally went to an allergist to learn what was going on. If you or someone you love has persistent, unexplained rashes, don't forget that nickel allergy is a very real possibility. 

So now what will you do, Donna? 

Alas, I am faced again with the the rash treatment dilemma. The funny thing is, when it was just "an itch" I went straight for my mom's tried and true remedy - the Calamine lotion. I'm still not sure if that stuff even helps, but it makes me feel like Mom's nearby. ;)  I have also used antibiotic ointments in the past (though I've read that you shouldn't), or other various other ointments in that little box in the bathroom. After reading Jordan Taylor's book though, I think I'll give plain old vinegar (as a topical ointment) a shot. It was one of his suggestions for mild rashes that I can try out on the spot, and seems harmless enough.

Nickel-Allergic Fiddling Artisans for Peace, Unite!

Although I am happy to help the handful of fiddlers out there who may also have nickel allergies, that is not exactly why I am sharing my little story. The real issue is just that there are so many things to watch for. 

Frankly, I've been successfully avoiding an outbreak for so long, I've nearly forgotten that I still have to be careful. I'd like to pull together a little more comprehensive list of some of those things that should be avoided, but for now, I'll just issue a friendly reminder to us all, that "just avoiding nickel" is a little tougher than it sounds.


  1. Oh my goodness, Donna Jo! It's crazy how a person can think she's got it all under control, eagle eye on everything nickel related. Then it shows up somewhere SO unexpected. After all, a fiddle is basically wood, and strings. But no....
    I haven't read the book you have listed. I was kind of waiting to hear if others felt there was new info that I wouldn't have found elsewhere.
    In terms of remedies for the break-out. I really love using essential oils. Lavender is a good starting point. But Geranium or Chamomile oils are great for unhappy skin too.

    1. Thanks, Pam. Lavender sounds doable. Actually, it hasn't really been itching while I'm putting vinegar on it every so often, so that seems like progress. My going theory is that if I'm not scratching at it, it should at least have half a chance to heal. I felt like the book was a mixed bag, but good if nickel allergy diet is what you need. It's hard for me to tell if it's information you may have read elsewhere, but I felt like I learned something from it.


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