Sun rash refers to an itchy, reddish rash which is caused due to ultraviolet light exposure. Individuals whose skin is sensitive to the rays of the sun are most likely to develop sun rash. The rash occurs as somewhat elevated red patches on skin, or as tiny, reddish bumps. After the first case of sun rash, the skin condition tends to recur during the early months of every summer. The disorder is also referred to as polymorphous light eruption.
A majority of sun rash cases tend to disappear on its own. However, serious cases of sun rash require medical treatment. Light therapy along with precautionary measures to protect the skin can prevent recurrent cases of the skin condition.
Symptoms of sun poisoning rash
The abnormal skin conditions associated with sun rash typically develop in the early months of summer due to sunlight exposure. The areas which are usually covered during the winter months and which get exposed to sunlight during the summer months are most likely to develop sun rashes. The arms, upper chest, and the front part of the neck are at the greatest risk to developing the rashes.
A few signs and symptoms of sun rash are listed below:
- Blistering of skin and less commonly swelling of skin
- Tiny bumps which appear in concentrated groups
- Burning sensations and/or itchiness
- Raised patches of rough skin
- In rare cases, a few patients may also elicit a variety of other symptoms including fever and chills, nausea, and headache. These symptoms may not be associated with just a case of sun rash. Instead it may also indicate the presence of a sunburn.
Causes of sun poisoning rash
A sun rash can be caused due to a number of reasons. A few main causes are listed below:
- Polymorphous light eruption: It is the major cause of a sun rash, and generally tends to affect individuals who are photosensitive, i.e., have increased sensitivity to sunlight. The condition can occur during the early summer months, either due to extreme sunlight exposure, or due to the fact that the intensity of sunlight tends to increase in the summer months.
- Drug induced excess sensitivity to sunlight: There are many medications which can induce photosensitivity, eventually result in sun rash. A few of these drugs include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, blood pressure drugs like thiazides, and antibiotics such as tetracycline.
- Contact with certain chemicals or plants: Sun rash can also be caused due to exposure to chemicals present in items such as perfumes, soaps, sunscreen, etc. Additionally, the skin disorder may also result due to contact with certain plants like lemons, celery, wild parsnip, burning bush, etc.
- Urticaria or solar hives: Urticaria is a type of sun rash which is quite rare. It is generally caused five or ten minutes after exposure to sunlight. It is considered as an allergic reaction of the body to the rays of the sun.
It may be noted that the precise cause of sun rash or photosensitivity is currently unknown. However, studies have shown that people who are sensitive to the UV rays from the sun, or from tanning beds or lamps, are at greater risk to developing sun rash. The elevated sensitivity to UV prompts an allergic reaction by the immune system, leading to inflammation of the skin and eventual development of sun rash.
In order to understand the causes of sun rash, one must also understand the concept of ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation are classified into two categories, i.e. UV-A and UV-B. Neither of them are visible to the naked human eye. An individual who is photosensitive may get affected by both types of ultraviolet radiation. It may also be noted that UV-B cannot breach glasses, while UV-A can. Thus, a photosensitive individual can get affected by sunlight which streams in through the windows, eventually developing sun rash. It may also be noted that repetitive exposure to sunlight can sometimes decrease the sensitivity to sunlight.
The below listed features of a sun rash may help in identification of the skin disorder:
- A case of sun rash can develop during/after the first or second exposure to sunlight, after a prolonged period of no contact with sunlight. This means that people can develop a sun rash when vacationing in sunny locales after spending a majority of the year in wintery conditions, or during the months of early spring, or early summer.
- People who have experienced a case of sun rash are more susceptible to annual recurrences of the skin disorder. Cases of sun rash tend to reduce in number with the progression of summer.
Treatment of sun rash
- A case of sun rash does not require any treatment as it resolves on its own.
- Extreme cases of sun rash may require pain killer medications to alleviate the accompanying pain. Anti-itch creams may be recommended to reduce the itchiness. For mild cases, an anti-itch cream with at least 1 percent hydrocortisone can be useful. For severe itching, the doctor will prescribe anti-itch cream with more percentage of hydrocortisone.
- Light therapy can be used to decrease photosensitivity as well as to prevent the chances of a reoccurrence. Phototherapy or light therapy implies exposing the skin to little doses of UVA and UVB. PUVA is another form of light therapy, where you can administer UVA with medication that can help the skin heal. PUVA does have side effects like itching, nausea and headache. You may have to wear UVA protective sunglasses to guard your eyes against radiation.
- Some pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Naproxen are available as OTC medications and can treat sun poisoning rash.
Self care protection measures from sun rash symptoms include:
- To avoid infection and quicker healing it is best advised to leave the blisters intact or if needed one may cover them with gauze.
- Using cold compresses that involve the application of a towel soaked in cool water over the affected skin or taking a cool bath.
Sun Poisoning Rash Pictures