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Sun allergy: everything you need to know for your protection

Reddening of the skin, itching, and pimples are just a few of the signs that flare up when we suffer from a sun allergy – and they are the ones that mainly afflict a fifth of the population, which means those with photosensitivity. Allergic reactions caused by the sun are quite common but not particularly known because they are not easily recognized. In fact, this is the immune system's reaction to skin cells altered by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.


How does allergy to the sun manifest?


Sun allergy usually occurs during spring and early summer months, still, with the daily sun exposure the skin gets used to and "hardens" and the likelihood of allergic reactions to the sun decreases.


Sun allergy symptoms vary from person to person, and it seems that the problem mostly affects women 20-40 years old with fair or sensitive skin – although it can occur in everyone regardless of gender or age.


The most common symptoms are redness of the skin with the appearance of edema or rash, itching, pigmentation of the skin, bubbles full of fluid, fluid flow, or "break" of the epidermis mainly in the areas exposed to the sun.


What are the types of sun allergies?


Sun allergy is characterized by different reactions and types, which are:


Multiforme rash by light


This is the most common allergic reaction to the sun, which usually occurs in adolescence and is more common in women. The allergy is manifested by a rash that causes itching, blisters, or red patches on the epidermis. The rash usually appears in the spring, a few hours after exposure to the sun.


Photoallergic dermatitis


The most common expression of allergy occurs when, after several exposures to the sun, a chemical that has been applied to the skin, reacts to sunlight. Various medications, sunscreens, cosmetics, and perfumes can trigger the skin reaction, with symptoms appearing after two or three days.


Phototoxic dermatitis


In this case, the symptoms of allergy appear from the moment a phototoxic substance (i.e., a perfume) that is applied to the skin, encounters ultraviolet radiation.


Solar urticaria


This is a rare condition that is mainly due to the skin's reaction to the sun. It involves the transformation of the normal component of the skin into an allergen. It mainly affects young women, creating hives just minutes after exposure to the sun. Symptoms can be from mild to very severe, to the point of anaphylactic shock.


We need to emphasize that there are some medications – such as antibiotics, antihistamines, chemotherapy drugs, cardiac, diuretics, and diabetes medications - that can cause skin sensitivity. That's why we always keep the instructions for medication usage, to have the information about a possible sun sensitivity.


Which parts of the body are most affected?


Usually, the body's reaction to the sun appears more often on the parts of the body that are most exposed: the arms, legs, shoulders, back, neckline and neck. But it is not unlikely that the allergic reaction will occur anywhere on the body, even in areas protected by the clothes we wear.


How can we protect ourselves from sun allergy?


It is almost impossible not to be exposed to the sun's rays – after all, it would be dangerous for our body as sunlight is necessary for the natural synthesis of vitamin D. However, there are several tips that we can follow to protect ourselves efficiently. So, we:


Use daily and repetitive sunscreen with a high protection factor against UVA and UVB radiation. In pharmacies, there are specialized sunscreens specifically for sun-allergic skins, tested and approved by dermatologists.


Apply sunscreen every two to three hours and whenever our skin gets wet, as water can interrupt the protective action of the product.


Avoid sunbathing during the critical period from 11:00 to 16:00 in the afternoon.


Prefer to sit under a shade whenever we are outside the house.


Make sure that the duration of our stay under the sun increases progressively, to increase the skin’s resistance to solar exposure.


Moisturize our skin with products containing aloe or panthenol after our sun exposure.


Strengthen our immune system by including in our diet foods or supplements containing calcium, selenium, zinc, and beta–carotene.


Do not forget to constantly hydrate, consuming water, or other liquids.


Wear clothes to protect from the sun, in light colors and-ideally-cotton fabrics. We complement our look with sunglasses and a hat.


Choose products with beta carotene, vitamin E or C, if we want to tan.


Finally, if we are under medication, we check with the dermatologist for any skin reactions to the sun.

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This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.
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