Can You Be Allergic To The Sun?

Do you have reactions when you go out in the sun? You could have a sun allergy. There are four different types of these allergies: solar urticaria, polymorphyic light eruption or PMLE, photoallergic reaction, and actinic prurigo, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Solar urticaria is a rare sun allergy that causes hives. While rare, it can be severe enough to cause anaphylactic shock, a potentially deadly reaction if not treated with an epinephrine injection in time. PMLE is more common, affecting up to 15% of people in the United States. It causes rashes, itching, and blisters. A photoallergic reaction is a sun allergy that happens when a chemical is applied to the skin and causes an allergic reaction when exposed to the sun. Actinic prurigo runs in families and is most common among the indigenous people of America and causes itchy crusted bumps called nodules (via Cleveland Clinic).

Common symptoms of sun allergy are rashes, redness, itching, blisters, hives, pain, bumps, scaling, crusting, burning, and sometimes bleeding, according to Sparrow Health and Verywell Health. If you have these symptoms during or after sun exposure, make an appointment with a dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Causes of sun allergies

The exact cause of a sun allergy is usually unknown unless it's caused by a medication. Some antibiotics, pain relievers such as ketoprofen, chemotherapy medications, antihistamines, diuretics, heart medications, or diabetes medications can cause a sun allergy or sensitivity (via Mayo Clinic).

Risk factors for sun allergies include family history, race, some substances, and other skin conditions. You're more likely to have a sun allergy if you're Caucasian, have family members with sun allergies, or have some type of dermatitis. Certain substances like fragrances or specific chemicals in lotions, sunblocks, perfumes, insect repellants, and disinfectants can cause a sun allergy. Avoid skincare products with fragrances, perfumes, and sunblock lotions with chemicals. Wear gloves when disinfecting your home to avoid a skin reaction (via Sparrow Health).

Call 911 if you have any signs of anaphylactic shock or heatstroke, like hives, severe rash, trouble breathing, confusion, high fever, fast heart rate, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, or swelling in your tongue, throat, or face (via Verywell Health).

Treatment for sun allergies

If you have a sun allergy, you should take some precautions. These tips can keep the flareups away, so you don't have to deal with moderate to severe symptoms. Check with your dermatologist, of course, especially if your symptoms are severe, like anaphylactic shock. 

Umbrellas aren't just to keep the rain off you. Sun umbrellas can keep the sun's harmful rays off your skin so you can still enjoy the outdoors. Invest in one you can carry with you when you're out for walks, and get one that stands on its own for sitting outdoors. Create a shaded space so you can enjoy being outside without having an allergic reaction to the sun (via Cleveland Clinic).

Use a good broad-spectrum sunscreen – one that blocks the UVA and UVB rays — with at least 30 SPF, per Sparrow Health. Apply before going outside and reapply every two hours. Get sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays and wear them when you go outside and try to avoid going outside during the sun's peak hours — between 10 in the morning and four in the afternoon.