Sun Allergy

What Is a Sun Allergy (or sun rash)? 

A sun allergy, sometimes called sun rash or sun poisoning, is any one of several related conditions involving an allergic reaction to sunlight exposure. Some forms of sun allergy are rooted in a hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system to sun on the skin. Some have a hereditary aspect to them. There is also a version of sun allergy that occurs only in combination with certain chemicals on the skin, including components of cosmetics and perfumes. Most sun allergy symptoms are mild but more severe reactions have been documented.

Sun allergies are more common than many realize, chiefly because they’re underreported by those who experience them. Though only rarely life-threatening, a sun allergy can be unpleasant, unsightly, and a source of serious discomfort. If you or a loved one are dealing with a sun allergy, see your Baptist Health physician for consultation and treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of a Sun Allergy?

There are a number of symptoms associated with a sun allergy. These include:

  • Itchiness
  • Raised skin, merging into red patches
  • Scaling
  • Bleeding
  • Watery blisters
  • Hives

The timing of symptoms can vary from a few minutes to several hours after sun exposure. 

What Are the Causes of a Sun Allergy?

The primary cause of a sun allergy is, of course, exposure to sunlight. Some forms of the allergy are exacerbated by certain topical applications, such as perfumes, makeup, and even sunscreens. 

Several factors increase the likelihood of developing a sun allergy:

  • Certain medications: Sulfa drug and tetracycline antibiotics are associated with a greater risk of sunburn and other issues related to sunlight exposure. 
  • Preexisting skin conditions: Dermatitis and other skin conditions often presage a sun allergy.
  • Relatives with a sun allergy: A family member with a similar allergy increases the possibility of a shared genetic tendency toward this condition.
  • Race: People with lighter skin are more prone to sun allergies. 

How Do I Treat a Sun Allergy?

The best means of avoiding an allergic reaction to sunlight is to stay out of the sun. Since this isn’t always feasible or advisable, you may want to consider other forms of treatment:

  • Corticosteroid medications: Over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatories, such as prednisone, are useful in treating dermatological outbreaks. 
  • Hydroxychloroquine: Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial medication shown effective with some types of sun allergy. 
  • Phototherapy: Phototherapy involves exposing your skin to the light of an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. Repeated sessions may increase resistance to the sun’s rays. 

If you’re uncertain whether you have a sun allergy, see your physician. There are several diagnostic exams he or she can perform, including UV light testing, photopatch testing, and an analysis of blood and skin samples, which may point to an underlying medical issue, such as lupus.

How Do I Avoid Sun Allergy Symptoms?

There are steps you can take to reduce the effects of a sun allergy:

  • Avoid direct exposure to sunlight, especially during peak hours
  • Apply sunscreen, unless applying it increases your response to sunlight (a photoallergic reaction)
  • Cover up bare skin and wear sunglasses
  • Avoid substances that you know will trigger an allergic response (contact dermatitis). 

Learn More About Sun Allergies from Baptist Health

If you’re dealing with a sun allergy, let the caring professionals at Baptist Health brighten your day.

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