When wedding rings attack

Wedding ring image: Flickr user Koshyk

Last summer, as I have every year since graduating from college, I spent some time in August running around in the woods on the East Coast. On my flight home, I noticed the fourth finger of my left hand itching and took off my wedding band and engagement ring to find red bumps underneath. I figured my finger was swollen from the humidity and the traveling and all the salty camp food I’d been eating, so I more or less ignored it.

Thus started my long, annoying battle with what I’ve come to learn is commonly called “wedding ring rash.” Want to see a picture? Here you go:

That’s my rash on a relatively good day, as it was calming down. I didn’t think to take photos when it was red and raw and erupting all over my hand. Want to see it again? This time, imagine a ring of tiny, fiery red blisters spreading out from that band of inflamed skin:

Unfortunately, photographs don’t show itching. If they did, the photo would probably look something like this:

ragecomic

I realize complaining about getting a rash from a piece of jewelry that would probably feed a family of eight for a decade in some countries is the ultimate in First World Problems. It’s also a really, really common First World Problem, as I learned when I took to the Internet to figure out what to do about it.

It’s probably caused by either (a) a metal allergy or (b) contact dermatitis. I was pretty sure I had the latter, since my engagement ring, which I’d been wearing problem-free for almost 18 months at that point, has exactly the same shape and content as my wedding band. Plus, my rings are platinum, and the odds of an allergic reaction to a platinum ring are incredibly slim. (Not nonexistent, but slim.) Gold jewelry (especially 14k and 18k) is more likely to contain nickel, which, as it turns out, is a pretty common allergy.

Some people resolve their wedding ring rash by simply painting the inside of their rings with clear nail polish; others end up at the dermatologist (or the jeweler, buying a replacement ring). Here’s how I cured mine and prevent its return:

  • Liberal application of Cortizone 10 Cooling Relief Gel.
  • I had to take my rings off and leave them off until my finger healed completely.
  • Very careful handwashing practices. (More specifically, very careful hand drying practices.)
  • I take my rings off at night.
On that last one, if you’re paranoid about losing them (like I am), what has worked for me is making a very strict policy about ring placement. My rings always go on a ring holder on my dressing table, and that’s the only place they go other than my finger. When I travel, I have a small travel jewelry box (like this) with ring holders in it, and that takes the place of my dressing table ring holder.
Oh, and once a month, I boil my rings. Yeah.
Watch the video to find out more about what I learned while researching wedding ring rash, why you should not under any circumstances use Neosporin on your rash, and why the coffeemaker is an important part of my jewelry cleaning routine.

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