What does an allergy to the sun look like

What does an allergy to the sun look like

If you own mild symptoms of PMLE, you may be capable to diagnose the problem yourself by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my rash always start within two hours of sun exposure?
  2. Do I own an itchy rash that occurs only on sun-exposed skin?
  3. Do my symptoms first appear during the early spring, and then gradually become less severe (or disappear) within the following few days or weeks?

If you can answer «yes» to every of these questions, then you may own mild PMLE.

If you own more severe sun-related symptoms — especially hives, blisters or little areas of bleeding under the skin — your doctor will need to make the diagnosis.

In most cases, your doctor can confirm that you own PMLE or actinic prurigo based on your symptoms, your medical history, family history (especially American Indian ancestry) and a simple examination of your skin. Sometimes, additional tests may be necessary, including:

  1. Blood tests to law out systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) or discoid systemic lupus erythematosus
  2. A skin biopsy, in which a little piece of skin is removed and examined in a laboratory
  3. Photo-testing, in which a little area of your skin is exposed to measured amounts of ultraviolet light — If your skin symptoms appear after this exposure, the test confirms that your skin eruption is sun-related.

If you own symptoms of a photoallergic eruption, the diagnosis may take some detective work. Your doctor will start by reviewing your current medicines as well as any skin lotions, sunscreens or colognes you use. The doctor may propose that you temporarily switch to an alternate medication or eliminate certain skin care products to see whether this makes your skin symptoms subside. If necessary, your doctor will refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin disorders. The dermatologist may do photopatch testing, a diagnostic procedure that exposes a little area of your skin to a combination of both ultraviolet light and a little quantity of test chemical, generally a medicine or ingredient in a skin care product.

If you own symptoms of solar urticaria, your doctor may confirm the diagnosis by using photo-testing to reproduce your hives.


To assist prevent symptoms of a sun allergy, you must protect your skin from exposure to sunlight. Attempt the following suggestions:

  1. Wear endless pants, a shirt with endless sleeves and a cap with a wide brim.
  2. Limit your time outdoors when the sun is at its peak — in most parts of the continental United States, from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  3. Before you go outdoors apply a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or above, with a wide spectrum of protection against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

  4. Use a sunblock on your lips. Select a product that has been formulated especially for the lips, with an SPF of 30 or more.
  5. Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet light protection.
  6. Be aware of skin care products and medicines, especially certain antibiotics, that may trigger a photoallergic eruption. If you are taking a prescription medication, and you normally spend a grand deal of time outdoors, enquire your doctor whether you should take any special precautions to avoid sun exposure while you are on the drug.

Expected Duration

How endless the reaction lasts depends on the type of sun allergy:

  1. Photoallergic eruption — The duration is unpredictable.

    However, in most cases, skin symptoms vanish after the offending chemical is identified and no longer used.

  2. Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE) — In temperate climates, actinic prurigo follows a seasonal pattern that is similar to classic PMLE.

    What does an allergy to the sun glance like

    However, in tropical climates, symptoms may persist every year circular.

  3. PMLE — The rash of PMLE generally disappears within two to three days if you avoid further sun exposure. Over the course of the spring and summer, repeated sun exposure can produce hardening, a natural decrease in the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. In some individuals, hardening develops after only a few days of sun exposure, but in others it takes several weeks.

  4. Solar urticaria — Individual hives typically fade within 30 minutes to two hours. However, they generally come back when skin is exposed to sun again.


Symptoms vary, depending on the specific type of sun allergy:

  1. Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE) — Symptoms are similar to those of PMLE, but they generally are concentrated on the face, especially around the lips.

  2. PMLE — PMLE typically produces an itchy or burning rash within the first two hours after sun exposure. The rash generally appears on sun-exposed portions of the neck, upper chest, arms and lower legs.

    In addition, there may be one to two hours of chills, headache, nausea and malaise (a general ill feeling). In rare cases, PMLE may erupt as red plaques (flat, raised areas), little fluid-filled blisters or tiny areas of bleeding under the skin.

  3. Photoallergic eruption — This generally causes either an itchy red rash or tiny blisters. In some cases, the skin eruption also spreads to skin that was covered by clothing.

    Because photoallergic eruption is a form of delayed hypersensitivity reaction, skin symptoms may not start until one to two days after sun exposure.

    Solar urticaria — Hives generally appear on uncovered skin within minutes of exposure to sunlight.

When To Call a Professional

Call your primary care doctor or a dermatologist if you have:

  1. A persistent rash that covers sun-exposed areas of your face, especially if you are a lady or a person of American Indian heritage

  2. A rash that involves large areas of your body, including parts that are covered by clothing

  3. An itchy rash that does not reply to over-the-counter treatments

  4. Abnormal bleeding under the skin in sun-exposed areas

Call for emergency assist immediately if you suddenly develop hives together with swelling around your eyes or lips, faintness or difficulty breathing or swallowing.

These may be signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

What Is It?

A sun allergy is an immune system reaction to sunlight, most often, an itchy red rash. The most common locations include the «V» of the neck, the back of the hands, the exterior surface of the arms and the lower legs. In rare cases, the skin reaction may be more severe, producing hives or little blisters that may even spread to skin in clothed areas.

Sun allergies are triggered by changes that happen in sun-exposed skin. It is not clear why the body develops this reaction. However, the immune system recognizes some components of the sun-altered skin as «foreign,» and the body activates its immune defenses against them.

What does an allergy to the sun glance like

This produces an allergic reaction that takes the form of a rash, tiny blisters or, rarely, some other type of skin eruption.

Sun allergies happen only in certain sensitive people, and in some cases, they can be triggered by only a few brief moments of sun exposure. Some forms of sun allergy are inherited.

A few of the most common types of sun allergy are:

  1. Photoallergic eruption — In this form of sun allergy, a skin reaction is triggered by the effect of sunlight on a chemical that has been applied to the skin (often an ingredient in sunscreen, fragrances, cosmetics or antibiotic ointments) or ingested in a drug (often a prescription medicine).

    Common prescription medicines that can cause a photoallergic eruption include antibiotics (especially tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides), NSAID pain relievers ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Naprosyn and others), and diuretics for high blood pressure and heart failure.

  2. Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE) — This inherited form of PMLE occurs in people of American Indian background, including the American Indian populations of North, South and Central America. Its symptoms are generally more intense than those of classic PMLE, and they often start earlier, during childhood or adolescence. Several generations of the same family may own a history of the problem.

    What does an allergy to the sun glance like

  3. Solar urticaria — This form of sun allergy produces hives (large, itchy, red bumps) on sun-exposed skin. It is a rare condition that most often affects young women.


If you own a sun allergy, your treatment must always start with the strategies described in the Prevention section. These will reduce your sun exposure and prevent your symptoms from worsening. Other treatments depend on the specific type of sun allergy:

  1. Photoallergic eruption — The first goal of treatment is to identify and eliminate the medicine or skin care product that is triggering the allergic reaction.

    Skin symptoms generally can be treated with a corticosteroid cream.

  2. Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE) — Treatment options include prescription-strength corticosteroids, thalidomide (Thalomid), PUVA, antimalarial drugs and beta-carotene.

  3. PMLE — For mild symptoms, either apply cool compresses (such as a cool, damp washcloth) to the areas of itchy rash, or mist your skin with sprays of cool water.

    What does an allergy to the sun glance like

    You can also attempt a nonprescription oral (by mouth) antihistamine — such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine (both sold under several brand names) — to relieve itching, or a cream containing cortisone. For more severe symptoms, your doctor may propose a prescription-strength oral antihistamine or corticosteroid cream. If these remedies are not effective, your doctor may prescribe phototherapy, a treatment that produces hardening by gradually exposing your skin to increasing doses of ultraviolet light in your doctor’s office. In numerous cases, five ultraviolet light exposures are given per week over a three-week period.

    If standard phototherapy fails, your doctor may attempt a combination of psoralen and ultraviolet light called PUVA; antimalarial drugs; or beta-carotene tablets.

  4. Solar urticaria — For mild hives, you can attempt a nonprescription oral antihistamine to relieve itching, or an anti-itch skin cream containing cortisone. For more severe hives, your doctor may propose a prescription-strength antihistamine or corticosteroid cream. In extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe phototherapy, PUVA or antimalarial drugs.