Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is a Sun Allergy Rash?
This is a skin condition that happens because of the hypersensitive to the sun’s hot rays. This rash will usually appear during the spring season when your skin is still adapting to the changes in the heat and temperatures of the season. It will usually start to appear within a few hours after your skin has been exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period of time. It will only show up on the areas of your body that is not covered. Once your skin has adapted and grown use to the heat of the spring season the sun allergy rash will improve gradually and disappear eventually. When a person has a sun allergy rash they will start to itch and their skin will start to burn immediately after being exposed to the sun. When a person has this rash it may be accompanied by chills, nausea, malaise, and headaches.
Causes of Sun Allergy Rash
Having a sun allergy rash is also known as Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLR) which is one form of sun allergy. The cause of having a sun allergy rash usually happens because the person has innate antibodies that are triggered when sunlight comes in contact with their skin. Their skin contains proteins that when exposed to sunlight react and change. Because of these evolved proteins the natural antibodies in your immune system respond to them and treat them like they are foreign bodies. Because the natural antibodies are not able to recognize these evolved proteins the immune response is stimulated and results in sun allergy rashes. Sometimes a sun allergy rash is referred to as photosensitivity, heat rash, or solar dermatitis.
Sun Allergy Rash Treatment
You can treat a sun allergy rash with antihistamines to help control the itching and inflammation. You can also use a topical steroid cream like hydrocortisone to help with these two symptoms also. If the symptoms are severe your physician may prescribe an oral steroid like prednisone to treat your sun allergy rash. To help desensitize your skin you can see your dermatologist for a medical grade ultraviolet light treatment. Using this type of treatment gradually in frequent small doses can help your skin become use to the rays of the sun and help to build up your skin’s resistance to the sun. This treatment could eventually halt completely or just reduce the allergic responses that cause the sun allergy rash on future exposures to the sun during the spring season.
If the reaction is mild you can treat it at home by spraying your body where the rash is with cold water frequently, take a cool shower, or apply cold compresses to the areas of the rash. You can also use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or any type of anti-rash creams that have the ingredient cortisone. If the allergy is severe you need to see your physician or dermatologist for prescription medication.
Although the rash may itch you should try to avoid scratching the rash because it could cause an infection, especially if the scratching breaks the skin. You can also soak in a tub of cool to lukewarm water with oatmeal added to help ease the discomfort and itchiness. If you do not have oatmeal you can also use baking soda or cornstarch to the bath. To avoid irritating the sun allergy rash wear cool light colored clothes during the day. You can also apply aloe Vera gel that comes from the aloe Vera plant or from the store to help ease the itchiness and pain.
To help prevent getting a sun allergy rash make sure that you apply the appropriate SPF sunscreen to exposed areas before going outside, even if it is for just a few minutes. Do it also when you are driving because the sun rays coming in the car windows. The SPF should be fifteen or higher.