A sun allergy, sometimes called sun rash or sun poisoning, happens when a person develops a rash and sometimes other symptoms after exposure to sunlight. There are several types of sun allergies, and reactions can range from mild to severe. 

While it can affect any part of the body, the most common locations are the neck, outside of the arms, back of the hands, and lower legs. In many cases, brief sun exposure is enough to trigger these allergies.

The main difference between a sunburn and sun allergy is that a sunburn results from overexposure to radiation from UV light, while a sun allergy is an immunological response; in other words, the body sees the sun-altered skin as a threat and tries to fight against it.

Some people have a hereditary type of sun allergy. Others develop symptoms only when triggered by another factor — such as taking medication or touching certain plants. Other types of sun-related reactions occur for reasons that are unclear.

Some mild sun allergies may clear up without treatment. But more severe rashes should be treated with prescription steroid creams or oral medications. If you know you have a sun allergy, you may need to take preventive steps like wearing clothes that shields you from the sun.

The sun allergy rash usually occurs only on areas that were exposed to sunlight. But sometimes, it can appear elsewhere on your skin. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Bumps, papules, or nodules
  • Itchiness (pruritus)
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Tiny bumps that may merge into raised patches
  • A flushing of the exposed area
  • Blisters or hives
  • Scales, scabs, or bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Redness

Symptoms usually occur only on skin that has been exposed to the sun or other source of UV light. Symptoms show up within minutes to hours after sun exposure.

If you have a reaction to the sun, get indoors or under shade as soon as possible. Schedule an appointment online at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center or by calling 330-425-7600 if you have unusual, bothersome skin reactions after being in the sun.

A mild sun allergy may clear up without treatment. Severe rashes may be treated with steroid creams or pills. If you have a severe sun allergy, you may need to take preventive steps like wear clothing that shields you from the sun.