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Among Cell-Phone Junkies, Rash on the Rise
Date:11/14/2010

By Julia VanTine
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- If you're an incessant cell phone user and a mysterious rash appears along your jaw, cheek or ear, chances are you're allergic to nickel, a metal commonly used in cell phones.

While allergists have long been familiar with nickel allergy, "cell phone rash" is just starting to show up on their radar screen, said Dr. Luz Fonacier, head of allergy and immunology at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to prolonged exposure to the nickel in phones," said Fonacier, who is scheduled to discuss the condition in a larger presentation on skin allergies Nov. 14 at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting in Phoenix.

Symptoms of cell phone allergy include a red, bumpy, itchy rash in areas where the nickel-containing parts of a cell phone touch the face. It can even affect fingertips of those who text continuously on buttons containing nickel. In severe cases, blisters and itchy sores can develop.

Fonacier said she sees many patients who are allergic to nickel and don't know it. "They come in with no idea of what is causing their allergic reaction," said Fonacier, also a professor of clinical medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Sometimes, she traces her patients' symptoms to their cell phones.

In 2000, a researcher in Italy documented the first case of cell phone rash, prompting other research on the condition. In a 2008 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, U.S. researchers tested for nickel in 22 handsets from eight manufacturers; 10 contained the metal. The parts with the most nickel were the menu buttons, decorative logos on the headsets and the metal frames around the liquid crystal display (LCD) screens.

Cell phone rash is still not well known, said allergist Dr. Stanley M
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