The sun is starting to shine and that means get out the shorts and tank tops! But, watch out for those dreaded early season sunburns!
Did you know that you can have allergic reactions to the sun? There are a few different ways you can develop a sun allergy and it typically presents at the beginning of the year when the sun finally starts coming out and warming us up.
A sun allergy is an immune system reaction to sunlight, most often, an itchy red rash. The most common locations include the "V" of the neck, the back of the hands, the outside surface of the arms and the lower legs. Sun allergies occur only in certain sensitive people, and in some cases, they can be triggered by only a few brief moments of sun exposure.
Symptoms vary, depending on the specific type of sun allergy but can cause an itchy, burning rash which can be within the first two hours after being in the sun or up to two days after exposure to the sun. You can also develop hives usually appearing on uncovered skin within minutes of exposure to sunlight.
To help prevent symptoms of a sun allergy, you must protect your skin from exposure to sunlight. Try the following suggestions:
- Before you go outdoors apply a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or above, with a broad spectrum of protection against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.
- Use a sunblock on your lips. Choose a product that has been formulated especially for the lips, with an SPF of 20 or more.
- Limit your time outdoors when the sun is at its peak — in most parts of the continental United States, from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet light protection.
- Wear long pants, a shirt with long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim.
- Be aware of skin care products and medicines that may trigger a photoallergic eruption. These include certain antibiotics and oral birth control pills, as well as prescription medicines that are used to treat psychiatric illness, high blood pressure and heart failure. If you are taking a prescription medication, and you normally spend a great deal of time outdoors, ask your doctor whether you should take any special precautions to avoid sun exposure while you are on the drug.
If you have a sun allergy, your treatment must always begin with the strategies described in the Prevention section. These will reduce your sun exposure and prevent your symptoms from worsening. Other treatments depend on the specific type of sun allergy. Here at The Allergy Group we can individualize treatment for your specific sun reaction from using antihistamines to medicated cortisone ointments and other treatments.
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