Can You Be Allergic To the Sun?

Can you be allergic to the sun? It is not an uncommon question.

Can you be allergic to the sun? It is not an uncommon question.  Usually people ask this in the Spring but we also hear it into the beginning of Summer.

A few hours after exposure to the sun, the skin can start to itch.  Red raised dots will appear.  Hard flat bumps can also appear.  This is known as polymorphic light eruption (PMLE).  If you have ever heard older people refer to “sun poisoning” this is the medical term. 

It is not known exactly why this happens.  According to Harvard Health, "the immune system recognizes some components of the sun-altered skin as "foreign," and the body activates its immune defenses against them. This produces an allergic reaction that takes the form of a rash, tiny blisters or, rarely, some other type of skin eruption." 

It usually goes away on its own a few days after the skin is no longer exposed to light. In temperate climates, it can begin in the Spring when people first start going outside more.  By the end of Summer, exposure to the sun no longer causes a reaction. 

However, the entire cycle may or may not begin again the next Spring.  It happens to people of all skin colors and races.  When it happens, it can be very annoying.  It has happened to me a few times in my life and I find that an oatmeal bath and some Vanicream Skin lotion helps it go away quickly. 

The other common form of skin allergy is solar urticaria.  This usually happens within minutes of exposure to the sunlight.  Painful bumps and blisters form.  Even skin that is covered by clothing can be effected. 

But, as soon as you come inside or get out of the skin, the symptoms quickly disappear.  In anywhere from a few minutes to 2 hours the hives will be completely gone.  However, they will reappear immediately upon exposure to the sun again.

And then there is Tommy that sneezes every time he walks outside into our bright South Florida sun.  He shared this information when I mentioned that I was writing about sun, sunscreens, and allergies.

We thought he was kidding us.  But is is true, he has photic sneeze reflex.  I joked with him about it being hereditary, and sure enough he said  “Oh, sure it happens to my Mom also”. 

There hasn’t been much research on this even though it happens to about 18% of the population.

So the answer is “Yes, you can be allergic to the sun”.
Til Next Time!