Sun Allergy

Although very rare, it is possible to be allergic to the sun (Polymorphic Light Eruption or PLE). For some people, exposure to sunlight (both UVA and UVB rays) can trigger an allergic response in the immune system. This will lead to red itchy bumps or hives. Symptoms usually begin in the early summer or during the first strong exposure to sunlight of the year and will continue throughout the summer. It is possible to buy special clothing and hats that help to greatly reduce the amount of UVA and UVB rays that reach the skin. It has also been shown that by taking a dietary supplement rich in a special type of unsaturated fatty acid called eicosapapentaenoic acid (EPA, found in certain types of fish oils) can help to reduce the symptoms of PLE if  taken approximately three months before the start of the summer. Since UVA can penetrate things like the clothes you wear and the various sun blocks available over the counter, the only way to avoid symptoms is to avoid the sun.

Treatments are usually steroid based and can be taken topically or orally. Sometimes a person might find that ultraviolet light treatment can be useful if started in the winter months. It can be effective in helping the body build up a more natural protection against sunlight.

Luckily, however, most perceived allergic reactions to the sun are caused by different medicines or chemicals that cause the body to become hypersensitive to sunlight (photosensitivity).  It is the ingestion of these products that cause a chemical reaction to occur in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and not an actual allergic immune response.

In both cases it is best to get a referral from your GP to see a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis and a possible course of treatment that will suit your lifestyle.

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