Talking on a cellphone for long periods can carry certain risks, like dirty looks from those around you. But allergies?

In recent years, dermatologists have seen a small but growing number of people with itchy rashes along their jaw lines, face and ears which go away when cellphone use is discontinued.

The reason, studies suggest, is an allergy to metals in the phones, most often nickel.

Nationwide, nickel allergy afflicts about 3 percent of men and nearly 20 percent of women. Women are more likely to be affected because they are often sensitized to it by ear piercings and metal jewelry, said Dr. Clifford W. Bassett a New York City allergist and fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who has treated the condition.

It’s unclear how many people develop allergic reactions to their phones. But the medical literature is rife with case studies. In a typical case, described by researchers at Brown University and published in the journal CMAJ in 2008, an 18-year-old developed a strange rash on the right side of his face. When his cellphone headset tested positive for nickel, he switched to a nickel-free phone, and the eruption cleared up. The researchers later tested 22 popular models of cellphones and found nickel in 10 of them, mostly in the headsets and menu buttons.

For those who suspect a metal allergy, a patch test at an allergist’s office can provide confirmation, Dr. Bassett said, and a simple swab test can reveal the presence of nickel in a phone or other product.

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