Sun allergy is a term often used to describe a number of conditions in which an itchy red rash occurs on skin that's been exposed to sunlight. The most common form of sun allergy is polymorphic light eruption, also known as sun poisoning.
Some people have a hereditary type of sun allergy, while others develop signs and symptoms only when triggered by another factor — such as certain types of medications or skin exposure to plants such as limes or wild parsnip.
Mild cases of sun allergy may resolve without treatment. More severe cases may require steroid creams or pills. People who have a severe sun allergy may need to take preventative measures and wear sun-protective clothing.
The appearance of skin affected by sun allergy can vary widely, depending on the disorder that's causing the problem. Signs and symptoms may include:
Signs and symptoms usually occur only on skin that has been exposed to the sun and typically develop within minutes to hours after sun exposure.
When to see a doctor
Polymorphous light eruption
Polymorphic light eruption occurs most often in areas that are covered in the winter months and exposed in the summer months, such as the front of your neck and chest. ...
Certain medications, chemicals and medical conditions can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. It isn't clear why some people have a sun allergy and others don't. Inherited traits may play a role.
Risk factors for having an allergic reaction to sunlight depend on your particular condition. These include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist).
At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. For example, if you're going to have tests that check for a reaction to ultraviolet light (phototesting), your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medications beforehand.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
In many cases, doctors can diagnose sun allergy simply by looking at your skin. But if the diagnosis isn't clear-cut, you may need tests to help identify what's going on. These tests may include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment depends on the particular type of sun allergy you have. For mild cases, simply avoiding the sun for a few days may be enough to resolve the signs and symptoms.
The malaria medication hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) may ease symptoms of some types of sun allergies.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These steps may help relieve sun allergy symptoms:
If you have a sun allergy or an increased sensitivity to the sun, you can help prevent a reaction by taking these steps:
Last Updated: 2012-08-28
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