Could You be Allergic to the Sun?

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Do you ever feel like your skin burns before you even have a chance to enjoy the nice weather? Or that you are later punished for spending short amounts of time outside? You may be allergic to the sun!

But don’t diagnose yourself just yet! There are two very different forms of drug-induced photo-sensitivity­–Phototoxic reactions and Photoallergic reactions.

Let me break it down for you.


Phototoxic reactions

These reactions are the result of sunlight activating the drug in your system–damaging your skin. Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation is the biggest culprit in contributing to the reaction, but Ultraviolet B (UVB) plays its part.

Looks like: a sunburn.

This reaction is fast acting and symptoms begin to show within 24 hours of exposure. The reaction is usually confined to the exposed area and clears up once the drug has been discontinued and cleared.


  • Burning/Stinging sensations
  • Redness within 24 hours to exposed area
  • Mild redness—Blistering
  • Peeling/Sloughing off after several days


Photoallergic reactions

These reactions are the result of sunlight altering the structure of the drug and causing the body to view it as an invader, ergo, initiating an allergic reaction–inflaming the exposed area­–to attack the ‘invader’.

Looks like: Eczema

This reaction may take a few days to reveal symptoms. As well, photoallergic reactions may recur even after the drug has been discontinued and cleared and can spread to unexposed areas of the body.


  • Itching sensation
  • Redness and possible swelling and eruption
  • May be several days before symptoms occur for first reaction
  • Subsequent reactions in 1-2 days


Sun-sensitizing drugs (provided by Medscape)


Tests & Treatments

The only test available for photosensitivity is the photo-patch test. This test is administered by a medical professional and involves shining light onto the arm and monitoring the length of time it takes for a reaction to occur. This test is generally not useful for phototoxic reactions.

One way to test photosensitivity yourself is by recognizing and monitoring the symptoms. Make a note of your skin before and after sun-exposure and keep track of any symptoms you may have.

If you believe you do, in fact, have sensitivity to the sun it is important to follow the following steps to protect your skin:

-Discontinue the offending drug immediately (do not discontinue any medically prescribed drugs before consulting your doctor).
-Because you are more sensitive then others to ultraviolet rays it is important that you take extra precautions to protect your skin from damage. Find a chemical-free sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ and wear it every day (You can still burn on cloudy days).
-Limit your exposure. Do not spend extended periods of time in the sun and wear protective clothing, like hats. Shade is also your friend.
-If you already have a rash, use a moist cloth to relive the pain. Cream ointments are also helpful for more severe cases.
-If reactions persist, consult your doctor.


Note: Try the ZENMED SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen. It is a chemical free cream and will not aid in irritating the skin further.



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