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Elitist earlobes

Dear Matthew Alice:

My mother had my ears pierced when I was a baby hoping I would be a life-long earring lover. As a kid I just wore little gold balls. As a teen, I wanted to wear cool dangly ones, but my ears would always bleed. Mom said, "You can only wear gold." I know Mom's always right, but why are my ears such metal elitists? How can one metal be more acceptable over another?

-- Lisa Rakestraw, Ocean Beach

Gradma Alice wore cool dangly earrings during her hippie days, and now she has lobes like a bloodhound. It's always something�. But about your vicious jewelry. Your elitist lobes are almost certainly reacting to nickel, the base metal for many types of, um, thrifty jewelry. Even if it bills itself as "gold" jewelry, it may just be gold washed or plated with a nickel base or with nickel as one of the alloy metals. Nickel in combination with perspiration will corrode, and the nickel salts produced irritate your skin and can eventually create what's called nickel allergy dermatitis. Swollen, icky, bloody ears. Nickel is also a common metal for the backs of wristwatches, which is why some people can't wear them without getting all itchy and scratchy. Dental braces, hip replacements, lots of metal-on-skin objects can cause a problem. For you, Lisa, we recommend wearing earring hooks or studs that are higher rated than 9 karat, which contains the most nickel. Jewelry stores sell plastic sleeves for studs that insulate your ears from the metal. Any metal, including gold and platinum, can react with an individual's body chemistry and create a similar dermatitis. So there's nothing particularly "safe" about gold, except that it's less prone to corrosion and in dermatologic studies seems not to affect as many people. Nickel is one component of coins, so people who handle lots of them can actually become allergic to money! Consider yourself lucky.

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Dear Matthew Alice:

My mother had my ears pierced when I was a baby hoping I would be a life-long earring lover. As a kid I just wore little gold balls. As a teen, I wanted to wear cool dangly ones, but my ears would always bleed. Mom said, "You can only wear gold." I know Mom's always right, but why are my ears such metal elitists? How can one metal be more acceptable over another?

-- Lisa Rakestraw, Ocean Beach

Gradma Alice wore cool dangly earrings during her hippie days, and now she has lobes like a bloodhound. It's always something�. But about your vicious jewelry. Your elitist lobes are almost certainly reacting to nickel, the base metal for many types of, um, thrifty jewelry. Even if it bills itself as "gold" jewelry, it may just be gold washed or plated with a nickel base or with nickel as one of the alloy metals. Nickel in combination with perspiration will corrode, and the nickel salts produced irritate your skin and can eventually create what's called nickel allergy dermatitis. Swollen, icky, bloody ears. Nickel is also a common metal for the backs of wristwatches, which is why some people can't wear them without getting all itchy and scratchy. Dental braces, hip replacements, lots of metal-on-skin objects can cause a problem. For you, Lisa, we recommend wearing earring hooks or studs that are higher rated than 9 karat, which contains the most nickel. Jewelry stores sell plastic sleeves for studs that insulate your ears from the metal. Any metal, including gold and platinum, can react with an individual's body chemistry and create a similar dermatitis. So there's nothing particularly "safe" about gold, except that it's less prone to corrosion and in dermatologic studies seems not to affect as many people. Nickel is one component of coins, so people who handle lots of them can actually become allergic to money! Consider yourself lucky.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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