What is Sun Allergy?

One of the most common allergy forms is the sun allergy. Sun allergy can happen to anyone and there is no proper reason why suddenly your skin became sensitive to sun. Sun allergy starts being noticeable on your body or within you when something in the sunrays is considered to be a type of allergen and it becomes sensitive to the skin and the allergic reaction is the way the skin shows an way of resistance to the item which seemed plastic to the skin.

The most common kind of sun allergy is Photosensitivity of the skin. Here the sunlight often contains particles or ray forms which seem foreign to our skin. The usual areas where the allergic reaction can be noticed are on hands, the V of the neck, the parts of arms and legs which are not covered and sometimes also in the eyes and the covered part of the skin.

What is Sun Allergy?

The main 3 types of sun allergies are named as:

  • Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE) type of sun allergy: This is the most common allergy that can occur to any sun exposed skin. The symptoms contain rashes, itchiness and sunburns. The situation of the patient may worsen if exposed under direct sun for long.
  • Hereditary PMLE Sun Allergy: This occurs to the people who belong from the American Indian Background and usually is less common than PMLE and occurs mainly to young children.
  • Photo Allergic Reaction Sun Allergy: This kind of allergic reaction is triggered from the product which people use to prevent sunrays from tanning the skin like the sunblock cream. Usually medicines are required for treating the allergic reaction.

Causes of Sun Allergy

There is no particular cause of sun allergy that has been identified by the doctors. Sun allergy can often be considered as any other kind of allergy as the symptoms similar the most of the allergic reactions. Sun allergy is also very common in people these days. Due to the large amount of UV radiation getting mixed with the white sunlight the light sensitivity of our skin gets affected. Also particles in the air on being mixed with the sun light becomes foreign for the skin and causes allergic reactions.

Sun allergy causes can also be hereditary as a child can inherit the same from his or her parent. Reaction of many cosmetic products to prevent the skin from the sun like to prevent tanning of skin often start acting as allergens when the product applied skin get exposed to the sun. The allergic reaction begin within a few moments of the allergic person being exposed to the sun.

PMLE or Polymorphous Light Eruption occurs more in females and the main region of this allergic development is in the temperate climate zone so in winters you might not get the allergic reaction. Sun allergy reaction begins when the season changes from spring to summer. Along with the UVA (ultra violet radiations which come along with the visible sunlight and is very harmful to the skin), fluorescent lights can also cause the allergic reactions. The UV radiations can pass through even glass and cannot be noticed because its spectrum does not fall within the visible range and even being at home you can get an allergy attack.

Signs and Symptoms of Sun Allergy

The most common symptom of any kind of allergy is the rash. The rash is the first thing that you notice on your skin when a foreign product has entered your body of touched your skin. Reddening of skin along with the rash can appear within 20 minutes of being exposed under the sun. Within an hour the sun allergy reaction on your skin becomes prominent. The sun allergy rashes ( which is a protective reaction of the skin from PMLE) appear on the exposed part of the body, like the open parts of arms and legs, the v of the neck and sometimes even on your face. If the reaction increases then even your covered parts of the body and your eyes can get affected.

The other common symptoms of sun allergy are swelling of the skin, itchiness and sun burns. The rashes are red and swell like little pimples and have a strong itching effect. The sun burns appear on your skin when you getting a burning sensation on your skin on being exposed to the sun and then burnt patches can be noticed on the exposed parts of your body. On further exposure you may also get blisters on your skin. The rashes clear out after a week if you are totally not in contact with the sun but if you keep being exposed the skin conditions will deteriorate.

The other sun allergy signs and symptoms are:

  • Red patches around the lips also white patches on the skin are some of the symptoms of sun allergy.
  • Watering and reddening of the eye is seen in sun allergy.
  • Dizziness.
  • The allergic reaction can lead to a sun stroke even.
  • Hypersensitivity which begins after a day or two from being exposed to sun for a long time.
  • Skin cancer in extreme cases.

Tests to Diagnose Sun Allergy

There are no proper tests to diagnose sun allergy but when the doctors watch the symptoms and ask you questions like do your skin burn when you are exposed to the sun and your answers to those questions are a yes, it is often considered that you have a mild sun allergy.

For serious symptoms like prominent burnt marks and blisters doctors often do the skin biopsy to find out the reason for allergy.

Photo-testing is a method where you are a small part of your skin is exposed a very little amount of UV rays and the reaction is documented to confirm your allergy. Doctors also note the use of medicines and cosmetic products that you take and use daily so that the correct reason for the allergic reaction maybe diagnosed.

Treatment for Sun Allergy

The treatment for the sun allergy occur in stages.

  • The first stage of treatment for sun allergy consists of cooling your skin and avoid direct exposure from the sun. Certain products which cool your skin or wet cloth and ice are applied so that your skin softens and the allergic reaction gets controlled from increasing.
  • Then the doctors give you antihistamines for sun allergy to help you with the itching problem so that you do not damage your skin due to itching the rashes.
  • When the sun allergy reactions are severe along with strong antihistamines lotions or creams containing cortisone is given to provide relief to the patient.
  • In further extreme cases Phototherapy is suggested where your skin get exposed to limited amount of light so that you skin learns to adjust with the sun rays.
  • If a product is causing the sun allergy then the product needs to be removed from being daily used and the doctors help you identify he product and then start the required treatment for your skin.
  • If a patient is suffering from long then along with the above mentioned medicines PUVA and antimalarial drugs are also prescribed.

Risk Factors for Sun Allergy

The sun allergy cannot be diagnosed so easily because in the beginning the symptoms are just like any other allergic reaction. The skin rashes that occur can leave marks on your skin forever. The rashes will defect your skin which cannot be treated easily. Getting exposed to sun is of the most unavoidable factors thus avoiding sun allergy is really difficult. The medicines take time to kick in and the allergic reactions begins soon after the exposure. At extreme cases it causes skin cancer.

Complications in Sun Allergy

There a certain complications of sun allergy which cannot be avoided and thus can harm the patient:

  • Being exposed in the sun even for a few minutes can be harmful for a person who has sun allergy at the same time avoiding it completely causes a huge disturbance in the daily life of the person. Being scared if the strong allergic reaction he or she might lock himself or herself at home which will disturb his or her daily routine.
  • If sun allergy is hereditary then avoiding the allergy is almost not possible and treatments take time to work.
  • While avoiding to use cosmetic products like sun guarding lotions may decrease the chance of sun allergy, the sun will tan your skin and you might not enjoy an uneven skin tone.

Prevention of Sun Allergy

Sun allergy can be prevented if you realise it in its early stage. You can consult a doctor and use lotions to resist your skin from showing allergic reactions and keeping your skin cool. You might use protections form exposing your skin directly under the sun and also this will prevent your children from getting the allergy.

Prognosis/Outlook for Sun Allergy

The prognosis or outlook for non hereditary sun allergy is good. Sun allergy is not gone extreme is treatable and soon you can return to normal life. If the case of not hereditary then there a full chance of recovering from the allergy attacks.

Home Remedies for Sun Allergy

The home remedies for sun allergy include:

  • Applying cold water, wet cloth or ice on your itching parts of the skin will cool your skin down.
  • Apply home-made lotions to keep your skin cool when you go out in the sun.
  • A great home remedy for sun allergy is by always wearing full sleeve clothes and using an umbrella and a hat to prevent yourself form direct exposure in the sun.

Coping with Sun Allergy

Sun allergy is difficult to cope with if you keep exposing yourself daily. Once you have identified the allergy you should immediately get medical help and prevent your normal life from getting disturbed.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Sun Allergy

The time the sun allergy will take to recover or healing time depends on the type of treatment the doctor has chosen for you. You can also learn if the sun allergy can ever evolve back in you or not.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: April 13, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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