Sun Allergy: Rash Treatments, Causes & More Facts About This Real Condition

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Believe it or not, it is possible to be allergic to the sun. This sun allergy rash comes in several forms and is also known as photosensitivity (sensitivity to light).

Types of Sun Allergy

There are several types of sun allergy. They are:

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE). The most common form of sun allergy, this form appears within minutes or hours of sun exposure and appears as tiny white or yellow bumps. It is itchy and the skin will be red beneath/behind the bumps.

This form is also known as sun poisoning. The worst seasons for those with PMLE are spring and summer.

Actinic prurigo. This form of photosensitivity is primarily found in young adults and children. The rash may appear not only on sun-exposed skin, but on unexposed skin, as well. This rash can leave scars.

This rash appears as bumps filled with fluid that can crack open. It can also cause chapped lips and cheeks. The worst seasons for those with actinic prurigo are summer and autumn.

Chronic actinic dermatitis (CAD). This form appears as dry itchy skin formed in thick patches. It forms ‘islands’ of unaffected skin on exposed areas. The name is a clue to another sign of this form of sun allergy. It can have symptoms similar to those of contact dermatitis. Sometimes the palms and bottoms of feet can be affected.

Solar urticaria. This form usually starts within minutes of exposure and can create blisters, hives and itchy skin. It can appear on exposed and unexposed skin. It is most commonly found in older adults. This form tends to clear up within an hour of the skin being covered from the sun or the patient leaving a sun-exposed location.


The most obvious symptom of photosensitivity is the development of a rash on areas exposed to the sun. This rash commonly occurs quickly after exposure, sometimes within minutes. It can consist of raised bumps, welts like hives or a mottled pink or red coloration to the skin that makes it look like the patient got sunburned while wearing a garment with multiple small cut-outs.

This rash, in any of the aforementioned forms, will also be itchy in nature. Each form of sun allergy comes with its own specific symptoms that make it differ from the other forms.


Unless there is no change in symptoms or the sun allergy rash symptoms worsen significantly, a doctor is not usually needed for treatment. Sun allergy will usually eventually clear up on its own, though a patient may seek immediate relief from the itching with the use of antihistamines or cortisone creams. Aloe Vera may also offer some relief.


Sun Allergy. Definition. Mayo Clinic Staff. April 29, 2010.

Sun Allergy (Photosensitivity). Aetna Intellihealth.