Allergic To The Sun: Coping With Photosensitivity

Being allergic to the sun is a condition that affects some people. Sun allergy, which is also known as photosensitivity, refers to a condition wherein the immune system of a person overreacts from being exposed to sunlight and triggers a skin reaction. This usually occurs in some sensitive individuals and may be set off even for only a few minutes exposure to the sun’s rays. Experts are still unsure about the existence of sun allergy in some people, and none in most others. But medical evidence shows that some types of photosensitivity may be inherited.

Why Some People Are Allergic To The Sun

In general, sun allergy is an immune system reaction to being exposed to the sun. It is often triggered by changes that take place when the skin comes in contact with the sun’s rays. Scientists have yet to find out why some people develop this kind of physical allergy. But basically, the immune system can recognize that when skin is exposed to the sun and changes on the skin occur, it sees the change as something “foreign” and, therefore, triggers its immune defenses against the said changes. This activation of the immune system then results to an allergic reaction that manifests itself in the form of symptoms produced by other types of allergies.

The Most Common Types Of Sun Allergy

There are various kinds of sun allergy. The following are the most common classes:

Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) – This type of allergy occurs within minutes to a few hours following sunlight exposure. Symptoms will usually begin with itchy skin followed by the appearance of small whitish or yellowish bumps, or sometimes just flat bumps, surrounded by red spots. Also referred to as sun poisoning, PMLE can be found on the neckline, the face, hands and the back of the arms.

Actinic prurigo – This sun allergy class is the inherited type of PMLE and will usually start occurring during childhood or adolescent stage . Compared to the symptoms displayed in people with the usual PMLE, the symptoms for actinic prurigo are more severe.

Photoallergic eruption – This skin reaction is set off by sunlight exposure on chemicals applied to the skin such as perfumes, cosmetics or even ointments. A number of common prescription drugs can cause this type of allergy, including antibiotics like sulfonamides and tetracyclines.

Solar urticaria – This sun allergy category is a rare condition that is mostly found on young women. The symptoms are usually in the form of large, red and itchy bumps known as hives.

Prevention Of Sun Allergy Symptoms

  • People suffering from sun allergy need to protect themselves when out in the sun.
  • Protect the skin by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Choose a product with protection from ultraviolet A and B rays.
  • Wear sunglasses that have protection against ultraviolet rays.
  • When required to go out during the daytime, avoid exposing the skin by wearing clothing that covers the body including the face.
  • Check the labels of skin care products and medicines and avoid those that contain ingredients that may cause allergic flareups.
  • People who are allergic to the sun can avoid suffering from the symptoms by providing themselves with the proper protection. As always, prevention is the better option compared to cure.