A sun allergy is a condition characterized by the appearance of skin reactions, following exposure to the sun. Often, this is manifested by a rash that itches. Severe allergies can cause hives, blisters and other unpleasant symptoms. We will look at all this in more detail…
Sun Allergy Symptoms – A range of problems
There are several types of unwanted reactions to sunlight, namely:
- Photosensitivity (general sensitivity to light)
- Heat allergy
- Actinic prurigo (an itchy eruption of the skin)
- Chronic actinic dermatitis (a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed, particularly in areas that have been exposed to sunlight)
- Solar urticaria (an abnormal reaction to sunlight or artificial light)
- Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE), a reaction casued by photosensitivity that is more common in women and results in a rash/itch for several days.
- Lupus, not like the rest on this list. This is an auto-immune disease, that has exposure to UV light as one of it’s causes.
Heat allergy is a red or pink rash that usually appears on the areas of the body that are covered by clothing. This can occur when we sweat and the pores get blocked and inflamed, often causing discomfort and itching. It is more common in children, but adults occur in hot and humid climates.
A sun rash has several possible forms, sometimes depending on the season. Even though summer is the season in which most such problems appear, during winter and spring, increased photosensitivity may cause allergic reactions as well.
During winter, a sun allergy can also strike. This tends to affect young people, mostly under the age of 15. Specific to this type of reaction is that it suddenly appears when exposed to sunlight at an altitude of over 1,500 meters, where the solar rays can be of quite a high intensity. Its main manifestation is an urticarial-like rash and red-purple areas, often swollen, appearing on the forehead, temples, cheeks and ears, causing itching.
Note that “sun sickness” or sunstroke is a separate issue, caused by too much exposure to the heat and not just by a reaction of the skin.
Occurs one day after exposure
The most common form of sun allergy occurs in spring and summer, especially after the first exposure to the rays, say after a first day at the beach. This type of problem affects mostly women aged between 25 and 40 years and consists of the appearance of red spots, associated with blisters and itching.
In most cases, it does not affect the face, more-so the body: arms, neck, cleavage, and behind the knees. All these symptoms occur in approximately 12 hours, and in some cases even a day after prolonged exposure to sunlight.
A sun allergy, unlike some others, can be easily recognized due to the fact that it appears between 12 to 24 hours after exposure, making it easily distinguishable from other types of allergies.
The tanning bed can be blamed
People who are “allergic to sunlight” have increased photosensitivity. Specifically, cellular changes that occur when sunlight reaches the surface of the skin results in a defensive reaction of the organism, which takes the form of irritation.
Therefore, these problems occur not just with exposure to sunlight, but also with artificial tanning booths, which should be avoided.
Drugs increase sun sensitivity
Certain medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Experts say that there are more than 50 drugs that can lead to skin irritation. Of these, antibiotics, diuretics and medications to control blood pressure are most commonly incriminated as the cause of photosensitivity, meaning they make the skin more vulnerable to sunlight.
Is treated with antihistamines
Like similar reactions, a sun allergy is treated with antihistamines (anti-allergic medication), if necessary. In many cases, the problem will clear up itself if exposure to the sun is omitted and no treatment is needed.
If you already have a history of sun allergy, prevention is obviously key. Use a protective hat, lightweight clothing that covers the body, sunglasses with UV protection and use of sunscreen with a UV filter above 50. Of course all of us should follow this advice to reduce the risk of cancer also.