Sun Allergy

What is Sun Allergy?

A sun allergy, which is also known as photosensitivity, occurs when a person’s immune system has a reaction from the rays of the sun. There are various types of sun allergies and they include solar urticaria, polymorphous light eruption or PMLE, and chemical photosensitivity.

Some individuals have very sensitive skin and common causes of sun allergies include medications that a person is taking, chemicals in perfumes or lotions that a person is wearing and health conditions, such as lupus erythematosus and porphyria. Sun allergies are not considered dangerous, but the symptoms are often bothersome.

What are the Symptoms of Sun Allergy?

The symptoms of PMLE include a pink or reddish-colored bumpy rash on the skin. This type of rash will itch and burn, and it may evolve into blisters. Phototoxicity and photoallergy are the two different kinds of chemical photosensitivity. When individuals have phototoxicity, they have inflamed skin that may appear gray or brown in color.

With a photoallergy, a person’s skin will be red, itchy and scaly, with the possibility of blistering. Solar urticaria is a condition that causes red bumps on the skin shortly after being exposed to the sunlight. Along with these itchy hives, some people will also develop a headache, feel sick to their stomach, become dizzy and they may start wheezing.

Sun Allergy Cause

The most common cause of sun allergy is hereditary, influencing the volume of sunlight or ultraviolet rays (UV) our skin can absorb – too much sun results in sunburn leading to sun allergy reactions. All skin tones have a sun absorption limit; it’s the severity of itchy rashes or scaly patches that vary due to the levels of photosensitivity, called polymorphous light eruptions.

If your family history includes sun sensitivity, you are at risk of developing a sun allergy. Embedded in our immune systems are genes to protect our skin. When your body’s defenses are overpowered, a chemical change occurs inside, triggering the immune system to react with rashes, swelling, blisters or pigment changes.

Certain medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s rays, prompting sun allergy effects. Here again, heredity plays a role in a person’s reaction to a specific drug. As the chemical compounds interact with the skin cells, they amplify the skin’s photosensitivity.

How is Sun Allergy Treated?

When individuals have a skin reaction to the sun, taking a store bought pain-relieving medication can help minimize inflammation of the skin. Those who visit a doctor may be prescribed a corticosteroid cream to apply to the rash. Staying out of the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day, is the best treatment to prevent the symptoms of a sun allergy.

When individuals are outside, they should wear sunglasses, a hat that shades their face and a long-sleeved shirt. Wearing a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher is also recommended to prevent skin damage.

Sun Allergy Prevention

The best prevention is to shield your skin from the sun. Learn about clothing, since some fabrics are loosely woven allowing UV rays to penetrate them. When riding private or public transportation, vehicles with tinted windows offer better sun allergy protection.

Talk to your doctor and pharmacist, they should both know about your family’s genetics and your own personal allergies to medication interactions affecting your skin’s health. Personal beauty and skin items should contain the proper level of protection when spending time under the sun’s rays.

Most importantly, in order for our bodies to produce the much-needed Vitamin D for our mental and physical well-being, it is essential for us to spend at least 15 minutes in the sun each day. For those with high sun sensitivity, it’s vital to wear a hat and use sunscreen products, such as sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, containing safe sun allergy compounds which are available on the market. Ask your doctor for recommendations.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
November 30, 2017