Sun Rash and The Best 7 Treatment Methods

Sun Rash is a very common problem in the summer season, especially in certain regions of the USA, colder regions, and Scanvandian countries. This article mainly discusses the causes, symptoms, and treatment methods of sun rash.

The summer season is always remembered for the scorching rays of the sun. Sun produces invisible rays called ultraviolet rays A and B that could be very harmful to the skin causing skin rashes or heat burn. Therefore it is better to know about the types, causes, and the best treatment methods for rashes to protect yourself this summer.

What is Sun Rash or Sun Allergy?

Sun rashes are a type of reaction on skin when exposed to sunlight. Or we can also say that it is a condition of photodermatosis, where reactions on the skin can be seen due to our immune system.

Due to sunlight, our skin has some changes and the immune system treats our sun-altered skin as foreign cells causing rashes, blisters, and hives. But these are common only in people who are sensitive to sun exposure.

Types of Sun Allergy?

The different types of sun allergy are discussed below:

common condition of sun allergy
Fig 1: Common conditions for sun allergy
  • Actinic prurigo
  • Though all races are affected by this type of sun allergy it is most commonly found in the Native American population. It is an inbred form of sun allergy. Symptoms can be seen from early childhood and are stronger than other versions of sun allergy.
  • Photoallergic reaction: This type of sunburn is the result of the application of chemicals or cosmetic products applied in the skin. These products in the skin react with the sunlight and can cause sun rashes or sunburns. Different types of medications, sunscreen cosmetic products, and fragrances could result in this type of sun rash. Symptoms may take 2-3 days to appear.
  • Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE): PMLE is the most common type of sun allergy. This affects women more than men. More than 10 % of native Americans are affected by this type of sun rash or sun allergy. PMLE generally kickoff in the teenage or early stage of the twenties. This appears to be like a mosquito bite and become more acute in the summer and spring season.
  • Symptoms start as a rash that is itchy and seems to be like blisters or tiny reddish areas. Most cases occur during the spring. Symptoms usually appear after a few hours of exposure.
  • Symptoms may range from Small red dots to clear fluid-filled dots (vesicles)
  • Eczema-like dry patches
  • Large plaques or papules
  • Target-like lesions
  • Solar urticaria: This sun allergy is rare and produces hives. Hives can be seen on the skin even after a short period of exposure generally a few minutes. It mostly affects young women. Symptoms can range from mild to severe even to the state of anaphylactic shock (which is a life-threatening allergic reaction).


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Causes of Solar Rashes

It is exactly not known what is the key factor for sun allergy. Sometimes UV radiation or light sources like sunlamps may trigger immune reactions resulting in the rash.

Some of the causes for skin rash may include:

  • being borne as female at birth
  • having fair or white skin
  • Residents of Northern regions, such as Scandinavian countries, Central Europe, and the United States
  • Heredity or familial history of solar rashes
  • Residents of high-altitude areas.
  • Antibiotics like tetracycline, sulfa-based drugs, pain relievers like ketoprofen.
  • Antihistamines like promethazine and diphenhydramine
  • Acne medications: retinoids
  • Antidepressants: doxepin and tricyclic
  • Antifungal treatments: griseofulvin
  • Chemotherapy medications.
  • Drugs used in cardiac disease
  • Diuretics drugs
  • Drugs used in diabetes like metformin
  • Application of some citrus-related products or oils to the skin prior to sun exposure.
  • Spending  time frequently on beach, sand, and water reflects sunlight more intensely 
  • Sun reflects on snow too so engaging in snow-related activity in winter
  • Using Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and other chemical peels
Sun rash
Fig 2: Sun Rash

Symptoms of Sun Rash

Sun allergy arises several hours or days after exposure to the sun. It can grow on any part of the body that is exposed to the sun. Some solar rashes appear on areas of the body that are ordinarily covered in the colder months, such as the chest and arms.

The rash’s characteristics vary from person to person based on skin type; however, they can include:

  • Blisters or clusters of tiny bumps
  • Red areas that itch
  • Patches on skin that feel as if they’re on fire
  • Patches on skin that are elevated or rough
  • A person with a bad sunburn may also get a fever or headache.

Solar urticaria is uncommon photodermatitis that affects certain persons who suffer sun allergy (sun allergy hives). Solar urticaria victims may experience the following symptoms.

  • faintness
  • breathlessness
  • headache
  • additional allergy signs and symptoms
  • For persons with solar urticaria, these symptoms usually appear within a few minutes of sun exposure.
Symptoms of sun rash
Fig3: Signs of sun allergy

Sun  Poisoning

Simply sun poisoning is a case of severe sunburn. Sun poisoning is the skin’s allergic reaction to high levels of UV rays, as opposed to a sunburn.

It occurs after you have been exposed to the sun for an extended period of time without adequate protection. Blisters or a solar rash are common symptoms, though the severity varies depending on the amount of exposure.

Sun poisoning, also known as polymorphic light eruption, can take many distinct forms depending on your sensitivity to the sun. Sun poisoning, unlike a minor sunburn, usually necessitates medical attention to avoid complications.

The body can get burnt in as little as 15 minutes in the sun. However, you might not realize it straight away. It could take a few hours for the redness and discomfort to appear.

 Staying out in the sun for an extended period of time without wearing sunscreen, can increase the risk of becoming seriously sunburned. Light skin and fair hair,  are more likely to get sunburned.

Sun poisoning or severe sunburn can induce the following symptoms:

  • Blistering and redness of the skin
  • Tingling and pain
  • Swelling \s
  • Headache
  • Chills and fever
  • Nausea
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Hives or wheels appear to be raised
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Small bumps over the sun-exposed areas of the body
  • Dense clumps of bumps
  • Hives, commonly appear on the upper and lower extremities and chest.
Fig4: Symptoms

Difference between Sun Poisoning and Sun Rash

Sun rashSun Poisoning
 It can be caused by a sun allergy or a symptom of sun poisoning; in some circumstances, it can also be caused by an allergic reaction to plants such as parsnips.It happens when your skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation for an extended period of time, such as all day at the beach without sufficient sun protection.  
 It may be genetic as well.  Those who have had a family member get skin cancer; those who are light-skinned and taking oral contraceptives or antibiotics; and those who live near the equator or in the highlands are more at risk of sun poisoning.    
Itching, red spots all over the body, and, occasionally, tiny bumps are the most common signs of a sun allergy.  Fever and chills, severe dehydration, blisters, headaches, nausea, dizzy or fainting spells, flu-like symptoms such as fever and body discomfort, peeling skin, furious red rash, and strong itching are some of the symptoms
It is self-limited. It can be handled at home, but if it doesn’t go away, it may require medical attention.  It should be treated by a doctor rather than using home treatments.  
Redness, skin inflammation, or pain while touching the skin are all symptoms of a minor sunburn that leads to sun rash.  It can result in problems such as severe dehydration. If you have any fluid leaking from your skin or red scratch marks, the infection may have reached your bloodstream.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and creams can help treat rashes.Cold compresses or hydrating lotions applied to damp skin are used to treat it.      
It normally goes away within a fortnight and does not cause any medical concerns. It is recommended to drink a lot of water to compensate for the water loss. Treatments such as IV saline infusions to prevent dehydration, oral or topical steroids to minimize swelling, topical antibiotics to prevent infection, and prescription medications may be required. In the future, it may cause accelerated aging, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also raises the chances of developing skin cancer.  It is treatable, but it takes many weeks for the symptoms to decrease or go gone altogether.  
A cold bath or aloe vera gel application can help relieve these symptoms.  A person suffering from sun poisoning may require sophisticated treatment at a hospital’s burns center in severe circumstances.  
Table 1: Difference between sun allergy and sun poisoning

How can you know if you have a Sun Allergy?

To make the diagnosis, your physician will examine your skin and take a medical and family history. Another testing may be required in some circumstances. Blood tests, photo testing, and a skin biopsy are some of the options. These tests will help rule out other skin conditions, such as eczema and lupus, in addition to detecting skin allergies.


Treatment of sun rash
Fig 5: Treatment Methods

Treatment for solar rash is not usually recommended by healthcare specialists. It usually goes away on its own in a few days without therapy. This, however, is dependent on the type of rash and whether or not there is significant sun poisoning.

While the rash is apparent, the following therapies can help you manage your comfort:

  • Use anti-itch treatments to relieve itching. If your rash itches, hydrocortisone, an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch corticosteroid lotion, may assist. Oral antihistamines sold over the counter can also help.
  • Try using cold compresses or soaking in a cool bath. These can also help with itching.
  • Blisters should not be scratched. If you have blisters if the rash is bothering you, don’t scratch or pop them. This can result in an infection. You can protect the blisters by covering them with gauze and use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Use moisturizers that are mild on the skin. You can use moderate moisturizers to reduce irritation from dry or irritated skin as your skin heals.
  • These treatments aren’t suitable for everyone. You may need to see a doctor if the therapies aren’t having the desired effect. To ease symptoms, they may prescribe a stronger anti-itch cream or oral medication.
  • A doctor can tell you if your solar rash is a side effect of a medicine you use regularly for another ailment. If your solar rash is caused by an allergy, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids to relieve any symptoms you may be experiencing.
  • A doctor may prescribe hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial medicine that has been demonstrated to help with the symptoms of certain types of photodermatoses.



If you have a sun allergy or hypersensitivity to the sun, the following precautions can help you avoid a reaction:

  • Avoid the sun at peak hours. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., are considered to be the the peak time.It is better to avoid these hours and keep out of the sun.
  • Avoid exposing yourself to a lot of sunshine. Many people get sun allergy symptoms in the spring and summer when they are exposed to more sunshine. Increase the amount of time you spend outside gradually so that your skin cells can adjust to the sun.
  • Protect yourself by wearing shades and wearing safety clothing. Long-sleeved clothing and caps with a broad brim can help shield your skin from the sun. UV rays can flow through thin or loosely woven clothing, so avoid these.
  • Apply sunscreen to your skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply every two hours — or more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating heavily.
  • Stay away from recognized triggers. If you know a certain chemical, such as a medicine or contact with wild parsnip or limes, causes your skin sensitivity, avoid it.

What can you do if you get a solar rash

 Most solar rashes will go away on their own in 10-14 days. “Aloe vera or anti-itch ointments sold over the counter can aid. Itching can be relieved with cool compresses or a cool bath.

 What does it look like when you have a sun allergy?

A sun allergic reaction occurs in the form of a widespread red rash. It’s also very itchy. Small bumps that resemble hives can appear on the rash.

Which antihistamine should you take if you have a sun allergy?

Sun allergy symptoms can be effectively treated with antihistamines like levocetirizine.

Which antibiotics don’t make you sensitive to the sun?

Cipro, Levaquin, Bactrim, and Cleocin are among them. Amoxicillin and other antibiotics have little effect on sun sensitivity.

What is the best heat rash cream?

1%Topical Hydrocortisone is the best medicine for sun rash.

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