Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why does handling copper make my wrists hurt?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy does handling copper make my wrists hurt?


I am a 23 y/o white female and I have had 2 bad experiences with copper that have made my hand and wrist bones hurt very badly. The pain will last for a couple of hours after there is no exposure. One instance was rolling pennies to take to the bank, the other was wearing a vintage copper bangle. What causes this? Is it common? Is this a form of an allergic reaction? Do I need to include this on medical forms and if so what is it called? I have stopped handling pennies all together because prolonged handling hurts so much.


This is an interesting reaction that depends entirely on additional details that are not provided in your question. All of us need a certain amount of copper in our diets to make our bodies function properly. As such, copper allergies per se are very rare. Sometimes, people will have a reaction to the compounds that copper can form after being exposed to water, air, or other pollutants, but these also are rare. Additionally, such reactions would generally involve the superficial layers of the skin, and would present with a rash, hives, or some other similar symptoms. Your description of deep, but local, pain after handling copper is thus somewhat confusing. Given the ubiquitous nature of copper in most metals that we interact with daily, and the fact that you have only had this reaction twice with no symptoms other than pain, I would be more prone to thinking that your wrist pain was caused by something other than the copper. Obviously, it is best to discuss your concerns and symptoms with a physician who can ask more questions and do a physical exam, and so your avoidance of copper is entirely appropriate in the interim until that can be arranged.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.