By Heather Legg
We all know that too much sun can cause long term permanent damage, from wrinkles to skin cancer. But what about the short term negative effects? We just returned from a week at the beach, and though I have a lovely bronze to my skin, I also have a nasty rash in certain spots. I’m wondering if it isn’t a sun allergy.
I did a little research, and yes, my sounds like an allergy to overexposure to the sun. It sounds like I have a case of Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE).
“PMLE, which usually appears as an itchy rash on sun-exposed skin, is the second most common sun-related skin problem seen by doctors, after common sunburn.”
Apparently, it’s quite common, especially in women. Many people get this at first exposure to the sun, like in the spring. A rash breaks out on sun exposed skin. Mine, however, came after prolonged exposure to lots of beach sun. I’ve been in the sun plenty this spring and summer already, but not the intense all day beach sun. Also, my case seems pretty mild, as some other symptoms can be headache, nausea and chills.
Some other types of sun allergies are photo allergic reactions which can also manifest days after sun exposure in a delayed hypersensitive reaction. This is when the sun reacts with something on the body (lotions, creams, sunscreens) or in the body (medications including antibiotics and oral contraceptives). Sometimes tiny blisters appear on the skin, even where it was covered from the sun. Solar urticaria is an allergic condition where hives appear on uncovered skin within moments of sun exposure.
Depending on the type of sun allergy, the rash will last from a few hours to a few days to seasonal reoccurrence. Of course, the best way to avoid a reaction is to stay out of the sun, though that is not always practical. However, be sure to wear a sunscreen that is kind to your skin with an SPF of at least 15. Use sunblock on your lips, too. Be aware of anything you are taking that may react with the sun, like medicines or anything on your skin. Limit time in peak hours, usually from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
If a reaction does occur, treat with cool compresses, an anti itch cream like cortisone, or an antihistamine like Benadryl. Hopefully this will ease any discomfort. If it doesn’t get better within a few days, call your doctor. Mine is getting better, and I’ve done all these things. Maybe I just need to stay in for a little bit now!