Jump to content

Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Nickel Allergy?

Max Valentino

Recommended Posts

I have just had a rather strange and unusual incident..which placed a definite threat on my livlihood as a pro bassist.


I own several basses, my newest pride and joy, and primary solo bass, is my new Godin A5 fretless five string tuned with a high C string. I am both an endorsee of Godin and Thomastik-Infeld, and as such I have a number of different TI strings at my disposal. My Godin, like it's fretted A4 brother, is usually strung with TI Acoustic Bass Strings (nylon core/bronze and copper windings) but I recently, just for kicks and to try a new sound, set it up with a new set of TI Jazz Flats....I loved the sound. I have been recording a new solo CD, writing, and preparing for a number of solo gigs I have coming up starting next week, so this bass has been seeing a lot of action. I also took a sub job for an Afro-World Beat band in LA, and thinking "Graceland" took this bass to a very long (8 hour) rehearsal on Monday.


During this rehearsal..infact prior to it..I noticed some pain and stiffness in my fingers, as well as the fingertips of both hands feeling "feverish". There was also a slight discoloration on my palms. On the way home I also felt feverish, as if symptoms of a flu. BY Tues. morning my joints in both hands were swollen..and I was experience the symptoms of a flu.


Both my chiropractor and medical practioner thought it seemed like a reaction to something. Thne only thing I could think of was the TI flats...and they suggested I change them and see what happens.


Seem TI uses pure nickel in their wraps which certainly is of musical and tonal benefit, but many people (millions so I have learned) are allergic to nickel. I know my skin is sensitive to metals...I cannot wear silver, even sterling, jewlerely without developing a rather severe rash... and I have noticed that playing my 67 P Bass (for which I get a great number of studio calls requesting) my attention wavers, I tire easily,my hands fatigue, and the joints in my fingers are sore. I always chalked this up to high action and a hefty neck, and to be honest rarely play the P outside of studio dates.


Other strings makers using nickel plating or nickel alloys which have lower nickel levels, but the TIs are 100% nickel, and I gues that put my system over the edge. I tried playing one of my other basses with TI Jazz Rounds on it, which I believe has a slightly lower nickel level (again pure nickel in the windings, but a much smaller wrap, and only a single layer wrap as opposed to the dounble wraps on the flatwounds), but almost immediately my hands became sore and stiff, along with the subdermal rash on my hands.


I changed back to the TI Acoustic BAss strings and within a few hours I was better...and playing.


Thankfully, most of my playing is on the piezo driven Godins, which can accept the wonderful TI Acoustic strings. I believe I will have to switch to TI Powerbass for my bases with magnetic PUs, which are not the pure nickel of other TIs. And, I suppose my signature sound has become the piezo and nylon core sting bass sound.....so perhaps it is providence of some sort....

...nonetheless a scary series of events.


I was curious if any of you out there have had similar experiences with nickel allergies, and if so what did you do in regards to this?



...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 5
  • Created
  • Last Reply

I'm in the same boat man. I believe I have a similar condition, but not to the extent at which you are experiencing.


I never was one for jewelry so I never knew about this until I began playing the bass, specifically when I strung up a set of Ernie Ball nickel wounds. I never had to deal with joint pain or any major swelling, but at the tips of my fretting fingers I began to develop an itchy, oily rash. I was unsure what caused it but when I went to the doctor he asked if I had been exposing my hand to any metals and that's when it hit me.


I was given some ointment that I was told to apply to the area whenever a rash would develop, but it was at least twice a week where I would have to do so. So now whenever I finish playing, weather it be on nickel strings or not, I apply a light layer to the would be affected area. So far it's never bothered me again.


I suggest asking your doctor about such an ointment and if it would be right for you, it would be a shame to have to make sacrifices for what you've worked so hard for. Hope it works out for ya :)

These words, are sledgehammers of truth.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Wally and 46&2.....


It is really much more of an inconvenience that anything totally dire. I have learned, especially in this biz, that one must roll with the punches (or as Voltaire might have said, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds...").


I really view it as sort of providence. I like the unique sound of the nylon core strings, and switching to nickel plated or SS string on my oher basses might just be a needed tonal change (tho I won't switch the P Bass from it's flats..that tone is just too sweet! I wil put up with a reaction to the strings for as little as I play it. Or perhaps Tapewounds are the calling?)


My reaction is, according to my Doctor, rather extreme. And topical treatment is not available. I have a similar reaction to anything but gold jewlerey (hey! maybe I shoudl try out those Pyramid Gold strings?)...and I have a very severe reaction to neoprene (why is it all shoe makes line their shoes/sandals with neoprene? After ten minutes of contact with this my reaction is...well, very ugly!) I tried a Comfort Strap once (with the neoprene pad)..very comfy indeed, except for the rash which covered my shoulder! And this is from contact with neoprene thru my shirt!


Anyway, for now I am using mainly my Godins and the nylon/bronze acoustic strings (sound great BTW) and am switching over to TI PowerBass for my other basses. Heavier gauge and higher tension than I like, but are steel with a single nickel-plated outer wrap. We'll see (uh..hear?) how it turns out.




...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow Max...pretty scary stuff.


I'd hate to have to play Elixers my whole life!


I would think, however, if you are having an allergic reaction, you might be able to control it with medicine. It seems like any OTC anti-histamine would control the skin reaction...Benadryl or something like that taken in pill form. Of course, it would make you drowsy.


Allegra, or one of the other non-drowsy antihistamines might be the trick. I'd ask the Doc. about it.


I do agree with you about creams on a completly different vibe. I cannot play with anything on hands...not suntan oil, not even sweat. Not even the residue left by a Wet-Wipe. I have to wash my hands right before I play. So creams would be right out.


Here's a dramatic solution...overload your histamines!


I used to suffer from massive hay fever...disabling hay fever. Then I discovered a dietary cure...jalapenos.


I took up the regimin of eating 1/2 cup daily...either in my Taco Bueno burritos or my Subway Veggie sandwiches...and it did the trick! I no longer suffer those HALF HOUR sneezing sessions!.


Or, keep the non-reactive strings!

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.


Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sorry to hear that man, but i remember in bp. a little while ago cant remember his name but this guy played with thin silk gloves on , i think it was for excessive sweat , but this may help ? :cool:
Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...