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  • Writer's pictureKristina David

Metal Allergy Newsletter: Nickel & Needles

Due to COVID-19, reducing the spread of the flu is more important than ever. I know many people with a metal allergy fear needles and vaccines so I decided to uncover the facts for this month's newsletter. Personally, I haven't had any problems with needles or vaccines.

A few years ago, the hospital I work at mandated that all staff receive the flu vaccine every year. I have to admit, I was weary at first. I had just been diagnosed with a systemic metal allergy and I didn't know how I would react. I'm happy to report that after receiving the flu shot 4 years in a row, I haven't had any adverse reactions. I've only experienced mild side effects such as muscle soreness.

Needle exposure due to receiving a vaccine is very brief; therefore, most people shouldn't react to the small amount of nickel that may be present in the needle. Below is a list of potential ingredients in flu vaccines. Fortunately, there are many flu vaccine options out there. Speak to your doctor to see if there is a safe option for you.

RESEARCH ALERT: Nickel Contact Dermatitis From Hypodermic Needles (2011)

Mehta, V., Vasanth, V., & Balachandran, C.

This research article begins with sharing case studies. The first case study highlights a patient who had frequent blood draws while hospitalized. She presented with itchy eruptions in both antecubital fossa (elbow pit), the location of where the blood was drawn. A nickel allergy was confirmed with a patch test. The second case study is of a patient who presented with itchy hyperpigmented plaques on her antecubital fossa after 1 month of blood donation.

Nickel allergy is a common problem to human beings because it’s widespread in our environment. The researchers state that the nickel allergy prevalence rates for the general population are between 4 -13.1%.

Nickel containing equipment is widely used in the hospital setting. Equipment that contains nickel includes: orthopedic implants, braces, syringes, needles and infusion pumps. Also, intravenous catheters have been reported to cause systemic contact dermatitis due to nickel release.

Nickel release from nickel plated metals are known to induce reactions in sensitized people; however, reactions caused by stainless steel containing nickel is not well known. The European directive states that the amount of bioavailable nickel released from metal objects should be less than 0.5 µg/cm2/week.

This value may not be safe for every individual, the researchers state that a minority of individuals will react to less than 0.5 µg/cm2/week. They also state that dimethylglyoxime (DMG) tests are used as a first line test for determining nickel release; however, DMG negative objects may still induce reactions in some individuals.

In conclusion, any prolonged contact with metal that contains more than 0.5 µg/cm2/week should be avoided.


Flu Vaccine Side Effects: headache, fever, nausea, muscle ache, soreness, redness or swelling from the injection site.

Adverse Reactions: difficulty breathing, wheezing, swelling around eyes or lips, hives, fast heart beat, dizziness, weakness, Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Life threatening reactions are extremely rare.

People who should not receive the flu vaccine:

  • Children younger than 6 months

  • Individuals with severe allergies to any ingredients in the flu vaccine

  • Currently sick



Egg protein: to grow the virus. There are egg- free flu vaccine options on the market.

Preservatives: thimerosal helps to prevent growth of dangerous bacteria and fungi in the vial. Single-dose flu vaccines do not contain thimerosal.

Stabilizers: sucrose, sorbitol & MSG to keep vaccines stable.

Antibiotics: Neomycin, gentamicin and others in very small amounts.

Polysorbate 80: keeps vaccine ingredients evenly distributed.

Formaldehyde: used to inactivate viruses. There are formaldehyde-free flu vaccines.


If you need help managing a systemic nickel or cobalt allergy check out my services page or email me at

KDW - Nickel & Needles
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