With the first exposure of our skin to the Sun there are often allergic reactions on the skin. Redness, rash, itch, bubbles or painful knots on the skin are very unpleasant and appear a few minutes to a few days after the initial exposure of the skin to the Sun. What is it that leads the organism to view sun tanned skin as a foreign body we do not know, but it is largely considered to be a genetic predisposition.
Polymorphous light eruption
The most frequent type of skins reaction to the Sun is polymorphous light eruption, which manifests it self in 10 out of 15 persons that have Sun allergies. It is characterized by a red rash in places where the skin was exposed to the Sun. It appears a few minutes up to a few hours after the first sunbathing and passes in a few days after the exposure to sunlight. As summer months pass by, the frequency of this type of reactions is decreasing, because with gradual sunbathing there is a partial desensibilization of the organism.
If there is a mild allergic reaction, cold compresses and the usual protection measures that protect from the UV radiation will be enough. If the symptoms are more intense the doctor will prescribe antihistamines and corticosteroid creams. If this therapy doesn’t manage to control the allergic reaction, then the whole body can be exposed to the UV lamps before being exposed to the Sun – this is called phototherapy and it is used to create tolerance to the sunlight.
The other most common disease, prurigo nodularis, is characterized by the appearance of knots and rips on the exposed and unexposed body parts and an unbearable itch, and in small children it appears with the first Sun. It reacts slowly to therapy and demands treatment.
Hydroa vacciniforme is a Sun allergy in children that reminds of a dramatic development of poxes with a lot of bubbles and redness. It leaves scars similar to poxes.
Solar urticaria – hives
Solar urticaria (hives) appears a few minutes after exposure to the Sun and can be mixed for sunburn. It is followed by itch, redness, hives. It goes away when treated by antihistamines.
Photoalergic eruption is a reaction that occurs in conjunction of sunlight and application of certain chemical on the skin, whether they are in sunscreens, perfumes, lotions or makeup. Adding various plants and oils for skin care during sunbathing is a good basis for eczema development and even the appearance of long-term spots on the face and cleavage.
Medication like antibiotics, phenothiazines or birth control pills can cause a photoallergic reaction. The easiest treatment is to stop using what causes the alergies although sometimes it is unknown what has caused a reaction. There are situations in which a summer rash is not caused by allergies from the sunlight.
Increased sweating leads to clogging of the sweat glands and the forming of sweat bumps. Sweat bumps look like small firm pimples, bordered by faint redness, with no itch. The disease is harmless and characteristic in children. Holding the sweat in skin creases is the cause of forming redness and mild eczema in young children. Powders that contain zinc are beneficial in these situations. In adults with increased sweating there is often a rash caused by the multiplication of the fungus malassezia furfur which is a usual tenant of our skin. The therapy is necessary and the clinical picture is characterized by a large number of surface pustules, especially on the trunk of the body. More information about increased sweating read here.
Gradual exposure of the skin to the Sun largely minimizes the possibility of allergic reactions. If they do appear however, sunscreens, adequate wardrobe and hats are a sufficient way of preventing mild forms of allergic reactions. In turbulent allergic reactions it is necessary to get and advice from a dermatologist and sometimes even a preparation with antihistamines, corticosteroids or phototherapy.
Special attention is required for the skin of babies which is multiply sensitive to sunlight then the skin of adults. Sunscreens made for children should always be used because the content of chemical substances in them is a lot smaller then in creams for adults. Bathing dries the gentle skin of children and it should therefore be hydrated by hypoallergenic lotions. The use of oily creams for skin care should be less frequent to prevent skin occlusion.
Spec. Dr. Svetlana Djurisic, dermatologist
Dermatological clinic DERMATIM, Belgrade, Serbia