Ear piercing is very popular these days, this has been heavily influenced by changes in fashion statements. Ear piercing is expected to become much more popular. Atopic eczema has also become very common, but very few studies have addressed the idea that the ear piercing itself could be responsible for causing eczema.
Ear piercing involves making a hole in the ear and then passing a piece of metal through it. This leads to contact with heavy metals like nickel and cobalt. It is strictly recommended to perform the piercing in perfectly hygienic conditions. Even after the piercing is finished, there are some precautions you need to follow.
Atopic eczema is caused by certain allergens in affected people. Exposure to a certain material could trigger eczema, could a metal like nickel trigger eczema?
Scientists have investigated whether nickel can cause a trigger for atopic eczema. In an experiment with 960 girls, it was found that around 13% of those who got their ears pierced developed allergic skin reactions. From the same sample, only 1% of those who did not get their ears pierced had eczema. Similarly, in a study of 520 young Swedish men doing compulsory military service, nickel and cobalt hypersensitivity was found to be higher (in 8% of men) among those who got pierced. In contrast, only 2.7% of those who did not get their ear pierced developed eczema. In another study of 424 Norwegian schoolchildren aged 7 to 12, 89 children got their ears pierced and 79 developed skin allergies to metal jewelry, representing a whopping 88% of those who got their ears pierced. These studies statistically link ear piercing consisting of nickel and cobalt with atopic eczema, and establish metals as allergens for a significant percentage of the population.
It is possible to protect yourself from allergic reactions, you should first start by visiting your doctor for an allergen test. If you find out that you are not allergic to nickel, it should be okay to go ahead and get your ears pierced.
Another less obvious reason for skin allergies after ear piercing might not actually be the metal, but the latex gloves worn by the ear piercer. If you think you are allergic to latex or rubber, you should request that the person wear a pair of gloves made from a different material. Since children have shown a very high susceptibility to possible nickel sensitization (88% compared to 13% among adult men), it can be seen that children are much more sensitive, so great care must be taken when considering piercing your child’s ears. For people with diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension, heart disease, or hemophilia, it is important to seek your doctor’s approval before even considering ear piercing.
Good skin health is much more important than simply making a fashion statement. After all, a rash-covered face is not a good fashion statement! With a little caution and moderation, it is possible to prevent the development of atopic eczema.