by Claire Bates
Last updated at 12:16 PM on 5th October 2011
Emma Killilea finds money hard to handle – because she’s allergic to nickel.
The 39-year-old’s palms erupt in swollen sores that cause severe itching pains whenever she handles coins.
She suffers from a severe allergy to anything containing nickel – including coins, jewellery, metal buttons and zips.
Protecting her palms: Emma comes up in hives if her skin comes in contact with nickel
Her condition means that coming into contact with products containing the harsh metal can cause her skin to break out in painful, irritable welts.
And despite being diagnosed with the allergy, there is nothing she can do to prevent the effects, which can last as long as 24-hours.
The bizarre condition has forced Emma to turn to her credit card in a bid to avoid using coinage when out shopping.
Emma, from Sheffield, said: ‘The amount of things I can’t use because of my allergy is probably longer than the list of things I can.
‘It is difficult and frustrating because you are always discovering new things with nickel in.
‘Coins, buttons, jewellery, zips – the list is endless. so many things have it in. it does make shopping a bit of a nightmare.’
Modern malady: Emma finds zips and metal buttons a struggle
She recently discovered that coating objects in nail varnish limits the harsh effect on her skin.
She said: ‘Coating your coins in varnish isn’t very practical, but at least it means those expensive jeans that you bought which actually cause a reaction can still be worn.’
She added that copper coins caused her the most trouble.
‘The palm of my hands will get severely itchy and irritable for the rest of the day,’ she said.
‘If I’m quick handling them it is not so bad, but if I’m in contact with them for too long the itching begins.
‘Whenever I am in a shop I will wait until the last moment to hand over the money so that they aren’t just sitting idle in my hand.
‘Thankfully in this day and age we can use cards to buy pretty much everything and can almost do without coins.
‘I have a separate pouch in my purse to keep the coins in and am very particular about that.
‘My sisters are always joking how obsessive I am about getting the perfect purse, but its not me being vain, just a matter of trying my best to not cause a reaction when rummaging in my purse.’
Emma first discovered she had the problematic condition aged nine when her aunt gave her a gold necklace.
After wearing the gift she began developing irritating hives wherever it came into contact with her skin.
Then as a teenager Emma noticed that holding coins for too long had the same effect on her palms – forcing her to begin avoiding coppers and silvers as much as possible.
Emma added: ‘The first time I ever had a reaction was from a cheap gold necklace. it brought me out in painful, itchy hives.
‘It took me a while to realise that whenever I didn’t wear this necklace the itching stopped.
‘Then when I was a bit older and started getting pocket money, I noticed that holding the coins for too long did the same.
‘Each time I would come out in hives that lasted over 24 hours, and the itching sensation was agony.
‘There’s nothing you can do about it – it is just a matter of avoiding anything and everything with it in.’
Emma also suffers from Coeliac disease and runs Delicious Alchemy, which produces gluten free food for sufferers of the condition.
Nickel allergies are said to be on the increase in the UK because of the high quantity of products containing the metal – but severe cases are still quite rare.
Lindsey McManus, from Allergy UK, said: ‘Nickel allergies are becoming more and more common.
‘In extreme cases people will have problems with money or even foods.
‘All you can do is avoid it as much as possible and use antihistamines to help relieve the symptoms should a reaction occur.’