We love our gadgets, and we know our readers do too! But when our passions start to cause rashes, it’s time to step back and reevaluate. OK, that’s long enough… The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) recently released a report warning of contact dermatitis from mobile phone use. It appears the rash is brought upon by nickel in some cellphones’ metallic casings.
BAD has dubbed the rash “mobile phone dermatitis” but we think MedGadgetitis is not only easier to remember, but it’s catchier and shamelessly promotes our website. We hope this catches on before the dermatologists lobby for “BAD Rash”, as this could lead to all kinds of problems when trying to explain it to your partner.
Lionel Bercovitch, MD, and John Luo of Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School noticed a pattern with phones containing nickel and published their work in the January 2008 edition of the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Picture and case from the CMAJ (January 1, 2008)
An 18-year-old male presented with pruritic lichenified dermatitis on his lower abdomen and eczematous dermatitis on his extremities, flanks and face that had lasted several weeks. We suspected his belt buckle had led to allergic contact dermatitis with subsequent autoeczematization. Patch testing using the expanded North American Contact Dermatitis Group allergen battery of 65 allergens1 disclosed an edematous and papulovesicular reaction to nickel at 72 hours. The patient had no other positive reactions, nor did he react to other metals tested, including gold, cobalt, chromium, copper and palladium.
The patient suspected that his recurrent facial dermatitis was related to contact with the headset of his cellphone. We spot tested both the antenna and the headset for free nickel. The test of the antenna, which was plastic coated with metallic paint, was negative. The test of the headset was strongly positive for free nickel. The patient began using a cellphone that contained no nickel, and his facial dermatitis cleared. He decided to resume using his old cellphone to confirm that it had caused his dermatitis and the eruption recurred.
CMAJ Article: Cellphone contact dermatitis with nickel allergy; CMAJ • January 1, 2008; 178 (1)
Press Release: British Association of Dermatologists