sun allergy


Sun allergy is an immune system reaction to skin exposure to sunlight. It is also called photoallergic rash or photoallergy and photodermatosis.
It is estimated that 5 to 10% of people suffer from sun allergy. This disease mainly affects women, 95% of whom are young people between 20 and 35 years old. Sun allergy can be mild to severe1 . The renownedMayo Clinicbelieves that there are actually several forms of sun allergy that are characterized by a red rash on skin that has been exposed to sunlight. According to this American institution of reference, the main form of allergy to the sun is polymorphic light eruption (in English:polymorphic light eruptionorsun poisoning).


Allergy in general
– The allergic process often occurs in two stages. The first contact with the allergen, or sensitization, specific cells produce antibodies, such as IgE. The second exposure causes the release of substances such as histamine, which cause various inflammatory reactions, such as allergy.
Note that the body’s response to a given reactogenicity varies from one individual to another. The most serious signs can appear suddenly, it is immediate hypersensitivity. Delayed hypersensitivity, on the other hand, is less offensive and appears later.
That’s a broad definition of an allergy. Some experts believe that this mechanism is repeated for each sunstroke, the patient becomes more sensitive and more lesions intensify.

Sun Allergy
Other doctors think that it is actually not really a sun allergy, but rather a form of muscle pain caused by the sun. To speak of “allergy to the sun” is a mistake, because it has not been proven that the sun is really the allergen.
Thus, the exact origin of the allergy still seems unclear, but scientists blame ultraviolet A (UVA) rays that penetrate deeper than UVB rays into the skin.

The sun’s ray can result in allergy, even if through a window, a windshield or a parasol, before reaching the surface of the skin.

The Mayo Clinic estimates that sun allergy has a genetic origin in some people, that is, a partially hereditary origin.

Other Causes of Allergy (Photoallergy)
– During sun exposure, people taking antibiotics may experience photosensitivity or photosensitivity. The same goes for some medicines against diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, depression and some types of cancer.
And the same also for the use of some plants such as St. John’s wort (but only in high doses), celery, lemon, fig juice and Branca ursina.
– As for cosmetic products, odorous substances, milk, lotions or creams with or without perfume have also proven to be photosensitizers. The risk increases especially among young people with oily skin.
– The presence of another disease that affects the skin (eg lupus ) increases the risk of suffering from sun allergy.


Sun allergy can be classified into four groups according to the symptoms and circumstances of onset: solar urticaria, photoallergic skin rash, polymorphous light eruption and photosensitivity.

Solar urticaria is rarely seen. It occurs within a few minutes of contact with the sun, a pink plaque appears, raised on the skin. These signs resemble a mosquito bite. The lesion can affect the entire body, especially in areas not covered by clothing, and disappears after 1-2 hours if the patient goes into the shade. Adult women are most often vulnerable. This type of allergy occurs for several years and creates a real inconvenience, as it forces the victim to remain constantly in the shade during their daily activities.

On the contrary, the photoallergic rash appears in the hours following exposure to very intense sunlight. It is characterized by red bumps, blisters, or papules accompanied by severe itching on exposed parts of the body such as the neck, hands, and forearms. It usually does not appear on the face except in severe cases. Symptoms persist for several days and recur with each re-exposure, but improve with tanning. This photodermatosis, which lasts for years, is most often found in women aged between 20 and 35 years.

As for polymorphous light eruption, it occurs rarely and is caused by low-intensity sunlight exposed for 30 minutes or a few hours. The skin presents vesicles, red and rosaceous spots in a circle or not. These varied-looking lesions appear on the neck, face, limbs, or behind the ears. These manifestations, accompanied by severe itching, attenuate in the shade, but subsequent exposures tend to worsen. This chronic condition affects both adult women and men.

Photosensitization occurs by combining the action of sunlight with the oral, local, rectal, or parenteral administration of food, medicinal, or cosmetic products. It is manifested by the appearance of red, papular or vesicular and very itchy rashes over the entire surface of the skin. Skin color may turn blue or brown.

Other possible symptoms of sun allergies (in general): 
Other symptoms, often less specific, may appear as: headache, dizziness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, wheezing or shortness of breath, life-threatening anaphylaxis (with hives solar).

Duration of symptoms (generally):
An episode of sun allergy usually resolves within hours or days of exposure to the sun. But the rash can last for a few weeks. The rash usually does not leave scars unless the person scratches and scratches the surface of the skin.

Period of sun allergies: Sun 
reactions are most common in spring and early summer, when people begin to expose themselves to the sun more often. With continued exposure to the sun during the summer months, the skin can sometimes become tough, which decreases the likelihood of an allergic reaction to the sun, as noted by the Cleveland Clinic in 2022.


The doctor obtains the diagnosis of sun allergy, at first, by questioning the onset of the allergy and the history of the disease. He carefully examines the damaged skin to differentiate photodermatosis from other conditions.

The health professional easily recognizes the rash, but additional tests can be helpful. The specialist in photodermatology performs what is called a phototest, which is emitted some ultraviolet rays on the shoulder or back. A positive test shows signs of an allergy.

In rare cases, a healthcare professional may request a skin biopsy to examine the skin cells under a microscope [/efn_note] Cleveland Clinic article dated April 4, 2022, website accessed by on May 30 of 2022 and the link worked on that date[/efn_note].


Urticaria that extends to the respiratory mucosa and throat can quickly suffocate the patient.


The first treatment procedure is to go to the shade. The doctor can also prescribe medication if needed.

The main treatment for sun allergy, in general, is prevention, limiting exposure to the sun, using sunscreen and dietary supplements such as beta-carotene (found in carrots or food supplements) associated with selenium, vitamins E and C that strengthen self-protection of the skin. Taking calcium or omega-3s can also be effective.

If the allergy manifests itself on the whole skin, the treatment is usually based on the use of antihistamines and corticosteroids against itching. The antihistamines used are loratadine, fexofenadine and cetirizine2.

Stopping using photosensitizers makes it easier to cure the allergy.

In case of photoallergic rash, the disease can be prevented with dietary supplements, available at pharmacies (ask the pharmacist). In case of failure of preventive treatments, your doctor can prevent the rash with the use of antimalarials for eight days before going out in the sun and during the first eight days of staying in the sun.

In some cases, the doctor can prevent sun allergy (photoallergic rash) by PUVA therapy.

Notes on Treatment:
The Mayo Clinic notes that a mild to moderate sun allergy can be cured without special treatment. In other words, treatments with creams or oral medications based on corticosteroids are reserved especially for severe or advanced cases of sun allergy. Patients with severe sun allergy will also need to take preventive measures (see above).

Herbal medicine

Tomatoes, carrots, apricots, melons and legumes contain a large amount of carotenoids, while kiwi and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E.

Aloe vera , in the form of a gel, can be useful to combat the symptoms of sun allergy.

Tips & Prevention

– Taking a medication (see also under Treatments above) requires the advice of a healthcare professional.

– Phototherapy led by a dermatologist improves the skin’s tolerance to sunlight.

– Protecting the skin with clothing, a hat, goggles, or an umbrella is helpful. Application of suitable protective cream is also effective. Nowadays there are special clothes that block UV rays, at least partially.

– Avoid photoallergic medications.

– It is advisable to avoid exposure to the sun at certain times of the day: between noon and 4 pm, because the risk of sensitization (allergy) is greater during this period.

– In spring, when the sun becomes more intense try gradually exposing yourself to the sun, for example, start with a few minutes and then gradually expand each day for longer (up to a few hours). In other words, avoid intense exposure for several hours in early spring.

– Moisturize your skin with creams or lotions, which makes it possible to fight dry skin and irritations, which are possible symptoms of sun allergy.

If you suffer from photodermatosis or other sun allergy symptoms, consult a doctor immediately if (note this list could go on indefinitely):
– The inside of your mouth swells or you feel a tingling sensation in your throat.
– The rash spreads all over the body.
– You experience any discomfort or difficulty breathing, including chest pain.
– The person suffers from the following symptoms: fainting, muscle cramps, severe headache, stomach pain, sudden and severe weakness, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, vomiting.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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