When It’s Not Just a Sunburn, It’s Probably a Sun Allergy

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With the warmer season coming in, it’s time to once again pay attention to sunburns. But, sometimes, it’s more than just sunburnt skin because, apparently, a sun allergy could also be possible.


What is a sun allergy?

Also referred to as photosensitive disorders, sun allergies are skin health conditions wherein a rash occurs on skin exposed to the sun. There are a number of possible allergies that can occur, including polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) and solar urticaria.



If, for example, you spend a few hours in the sun and after which you develop rash-like symptoms on your arms and other exposed areas of the skin, then it is most likely that you have PMLE, which is one of the most common sun allergies.


PMLE most frequently occur in spring or early summer and tends to recur every year after the first episode. The rashes are triggered by hours of sun exposure following a long period of no sun exposure, such as when transitioning from winter to summer. Women between the ages of 20 through 40 are more likely to experience PMLE. The rash can look different on people, but usually appears as pinkish or red bumps on the arms, chest, and legs. Fortunately, the face is not usually affected. In addition to beauty concerns such as having an unsightly rash, this particular sun allergy may also itch or burn.


Solar Urticaria

If you start to break out in hives after just a few minutes in the sun, then you may be suffering from solar urticaria. This condition rarely lasts longer than 24 hours. It tends to disappear just as suddenly as it appears once you’re no longer exposed to the sun.


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Other Types

There are a number of other types of sun allergies, which include drug-induced photosensitivity, genetic photodermatoses, metabolic photodermatoses, or phytophotodermatitis. Some of these (such as phytophotodermatitis) are easy to treat (i.e. removing agents that cause the allergic reaction), while some are rare conditions (such as genetic photodermatoses) that should be discussed with a dermatologist for proper treatment.


Prevention and proper skin care may be able to keep those sunburns and the common sun allergy at bay. Make sure you wear sun-protective clothing and high SPF sunscreens, especially during the summer. But, if the rash is severe or persistent, medical treatment is highly recommended.

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